Pakistan Bars US Diplomat Accused In Fatal Traffic Accident From Leaving Country

Will Racke | Immigration and Foreign Policy Reporter

The Pakistani government has barred an American diplomat involved in a fatal traffic accident from leaving the country, forcing a U.S. military transport plane to depart without him, local media reported Saturday.

A special aircraft arrived at Noor Khan Airbase outside Islamabad Saturday to fly U.S. defense attache Col. Joseph Emanuel Hall back to Washington, Pakistan’s The Express Tribune newspaper reported.

Authorities with Pakistan’s Federal Investigation Authority (FIA) declined to give Hall clearance to leave, saying he had been placed on a “blacklist” of people prohibited from flying abroad.

“Colonel Joseph is on no-fly list,” an FIA official told The Express Tribune. “Whatever plane comes [to take along the attache], we would not allow him to fly.”

Hall struck and killed 22-year-old Pakistani citizen Ateeq Baig after running a red light in Islamabad in April. There were reports in local media that Hall was drunk at the time, but the U.S. embassy denied them.

Islamabad police briefly detained Hall and then released him in accordance with the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, which gives certain foreign diplomats immunity from criminal prosecution. Hall has remained at the U.S. embassy and has made no public statements.

The Islamabad High Court ruled Friday that Hall does not have absolute immunity. The court also gave Pakistan’s interior ministry two weeks to put Hall’s name on the so-called Exit Control List, which would prevent him from leaving the country until the case is adjudicated.

Surveillance camera footage of the accident showed Hall’s truck running a red light and smashing into a motorcycle carrying Baig and another rider. The video quickly went viral, generating outrage in Pakistan and invoking memories of Raymond Davis, the CIA contractor who shot and killed two armed Pakistani men in Lahore in 2011.

The incident with Hall further ruptured already strained diplomatic relations between Washington and Islamabad. Both governments have placed travel restrictions on the other’s diplomats, requiring envoys to obtain permission from the host country before traveling more than 40 kilometers outside their posts.

Pakistan is a critical partner in the U.S. government’s Afghanistan war effort, providing a supply route for American and North Atlantic Treaty Organization troops fighting there. However, the country is widely seen as playing both sides in Afghanistan, and its military and intelligence services have close ties to Pashtun insurgents fighting against the U.S.-backed government in Kabul. (RELATED: Why Cutting Aid To Pakistan Might Not Help The US Win In Afghanistan)

President Donald Trump has accused Pakistan of not doing enough to fight terrorism and stop the Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan. He froze up to $1.3 billion in annual security aid to Pakistan in January, saying it was a “safe haven to the terrorists we hunt in Afghanistan.”

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