US diplomat leaves Pakistan amid uproar over fatal accident

Pakistani protesters carry placards during a demonstration against the killing of a local resident in a car accident involving a US diplomat in Islamabad, on April 25, 2018.
Pakistani protesters carry placards during a demonstration against the killing of a local resident in a car accident involving a US diplomat in Islamabad, on April 25, 2018.PHOTO: AFP

ISLAMABAD (NYTIMES) - A US diplomat involved in a fatal accident was allowed by Pakistani authorities to leave the country on Monday (May 14), just days after officials here prevented him from boarding a US military plane, according to US officials.

"We can confirm that the American diplomat, who was involved in a tragic car accident on April 7 in Islamabad, has departed Pakistan," Mr Nolen Johnson, a State Department spokesman, said in an e-mail.

Pakistani authorities made no comment about the sudden departure of the diplomat, who found himself at the centre of the latest diplomatic dispute between the two countries.

Local news media outlets reported the departure of the diplomat, citing anonymous official sources.

The diplomat, Colonel Joseph Emanuel Hall, a military attaché at the US Embassy in Islamabad, is accused of having run a red light and fatally hitting a 22-year-old man on April 7. Another passenger on the bike was injured.

Authorities did not arrest Col Hall because he had diplomatic immunity. But as a furore here grew over the accident, he was barred from leaving the country, and Pakistani officials said he faced criminal charges.

A C-130 cargo plane that was sent to fly Col Hall out of Pakistan had to return last week after Pakistani authorities refused to let him board.

 

Pakistani officials had been demanding that the United States waive Col Hall's diplomatic immunity, but US officials refused.

Ms Alice Wells, a senior State Department official, visited Islamabad last month to discuss the case.

Last week, the Islamabad High Court ruled that the colonel did not enjoy full diplomatic immunity and gave the government two weeks to decide whether he should be placed on the Exit Control List, an official roster of names that bars people from leaving the country.

The United States and Pakistan imposed travel restrictions on each other's diplomats last week as the dispute continued to simmer.

Ties between the countries have frayed since January, when the Trump administration announced that it had suspended nearly all of the US$1.3 billion (S$1.74 billion) in annual security aid given to Pakistan.

Before the announcement, President Donald Trump had complained on Twitter that Pakistan had "given us nothing but lies & deceit" and accused it of providing "safe haven to the terrorists we hunt in Afghanistan".

The Trump administration has also sought to strengthen ties with India, Pakistan's bitter rival.