The U.S.’ troubled relationship with Pakistan once again occupied centre-stage on multiple fronts this week, as the Obama administration refused a legal plea to release documents on drone strikes, despite sharp criticism of such attacks by a top United Nations official. At the same time, U.S. went public with stinging complaints of Pakistani “harassment” of its diplomatic staff in Islamabad.
Responding to a lawsuit and Freedom of Information Act application filed by the American Civil Liberties Union and the New York Times, a U.S. government brief noted, “Whether or not the Central Intelligence Agency has the authority to be, or is in fact, directly involved in targeted lethal operations remains classified.”
This response came in the wake of a report released by Christof Heyns, U.N. Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Killings, in which the agency cited a “dramatic increase” in targeted killings carried out by the U.S. in recent times, and a corresponding drop in the degree of accountability of such killings by unmanned aerial vehicles.
Even as Mr. Heyns’ report warned that the disclosure of targeted killings by the CIA was critical to ensure justice and reparation for victims or their families, the Obama administration dug in its heels, calling for the cases to be dismissed on the grounds that the release of any such information would compromise national security.
The regular use of targeted killings has however consistently raised the spectre of anti-American sentiment across different parts of Pakistan. That rage was further fuelled on Thursday when an internal State Department report allegedly said that U.S. diplomats in Pakistan were facing “deliberate, wilful and systematic” harassment by the Pakistani government ever since the May 2, 2011 killing of Osama bin Laden.
According to the report by the State Department’s Inspector-General, U.S. entities in Pakistan have been subjected to “unusual” obstruction that has “reached new levels of intensity,” said to include “delayed visa issuances, blocked shipments for both assistance programs and construction projects, and surveillance of, and interference with, mission employees and contractors.”
Such harassment was said to have reached the point where it was “significantly impairing” the work of the American embassy and consulates there, according to the report. In its response to the report media quoted a statement by Pakistan's Foreign Ministry, which reportedly said that all diplomats in the country were extended “full courtesies and privileges” as required under the Vienna Conventions.