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Thursday, March 24, 2011

331 "Diplomats" Suspected Of Espionage By Pakistan Recalled To US

Asad Kharal [Express Tribune]

LAHORE: According to a deal reached between relevant officials of Pakistan and the US in exchange for the release of US national Raymond Davis, as many as 331 US officials, most of whom are suspected of being engaged in espionage under diplomatic cover, have been identified to leave the country.

Pakistani authorities, The Express Tribune learnt, have agreed that these US officials would not be declared ‘persona non grata’ if they left the country voluntarily within a stipulated time.

Previously, Pakistan was almost ready to summarily expel these persons, who have various levels of diplomatic immunity, as most of them were issued Pakistani visas without getting prior No-Objection Certificates (NOC) following Standard Operating Procedures (SOP), sources familiar with the matter revealed.

According to the Standard Operating Procedures, all embassy and consulate staff  working under different diplomatic covers like contractors, consultants, technicians and administrative staff were required to be vetted by relevant officials before issuing them visas.

Pakistani officials while handing over a list to the US officials had demanded that these US officials should be recalled immediately.

When Pakistan was assured that they will leave the country within the stipulated period, it extended assurances that these US officials will not be declared persona non grata.

This was one of the salient features of the secret deal which is also said to include a substantial increase in aid, weapons and mandatory scrutiny of all persons seeking diplomatic immunity.

Intelligence officials said that Pakistani authorities had been trying to “trap someone to expose the cover of these consultants and technicians in front of the world community and Pakistani people”.

With the help of this achievement, Pakistan has successfully neutralised operatives of ‘friends’ (allies in the war in terrorism) involved in anti-state activities against our sovereignty.

The Express Tribune learnt that Pakistan has devised “an adequate response policy to counter the severity of our friends’ reaction”.

An official, who is privy to these developments, said that most of the suspected persons on the list were “involved in suspicious activities, including photographing and filming of sensitive installations like air bases (Warsak, near Peshawar and Multan), defence bunkers along the Pakistan-India border near Lahore, recruiting persons supporting their activities and launching local people for suspicious activities by offering lucrative benefits”.

Sources familiar with the issue said that Raymond Davis case had firmly established the veracity of some Pakistani authorities’ insistence on stopping “out-of-context additions” of diplomatic immunity in Pakistan.

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