Sensationalisation of any issue is a favourite pastime of ours. However, without considering the pros and cons of actions which Pakistani authorities take, most of the times Pakistan suffers embarrassment. In a hit and run case involving a US diplomatic officer, Colonel Joseph Emanuel Hall, the defence attaché at the US embassy, Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) initially barred him from leaving the country. Police registered a case against him under various sections of Pakistan Penal Code (PPC). All these actions constituted a ridiculous stunt on the part of Pakistan.
Add to the boastful remarks of our officials was the reaction of internet bloggers and other social media activists who without understanding the complications involved were quick to chide the state and authorities for not taking appropriate measures. The person detained was not an ordinary American citizen. Being a member of diplomatic staff, he enjoyed diplomatic immunity. Article 31 of Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations (VCDR) grants diplomatic agents immunity from the criminal jurisdiction of the receiving state. So no matter how much we want to bring the culprit to justice, he is protected by the Convention mentioned before. Without leaving VCDR wholly, it is impossible to think of initiating a criminal proceeding against any diplomatic agent.
And this is what happened precisely the other day when a US embassy spokesman told media that the American diplomat who was involved in a tragic accident in Islamabad had departed Pakistan. When it is a well-known fact that diplomatic immunity is a cornerstone of international law, the government should not have taken up a fight it was unable to fight in the first place.
We have seen it before that making a fuss over diplomats’ immunities does not yield us any results especially in a case of criminal nature. Despite the hue and cry when Raymond Davis shot two bikers in Lahore, he was finally allowed to leave the country. Even a civil case cannot be registered against a diplomatic agent leave alone thinking of initiating a criminal proceeding. The question worth asking is why did the government of Pakistan choose to put up a fight if it was going to capitulate so easily? The most severe action that Pakistan could have taken against Mr Joseph was to declare him persona non grata. However, it seems that he was not even declared persona non grata, as FO is silent on it so far.