Repressive regimes tend to use violence, intimidation and modern technology to silence dissent abroad. ‘Transnational repression’ has become more common nowadays. Unfavorable individuals are intimidated by way of harassment, digital surveillance and smear campaigns. Common tactics include withholding travel documents, denying consular services and threatening relatives back home.
Pakistan is one such country that has gone beyond its territory to harass and intimidate its citizens settled abroad. Recently, a case has come to light in Barcelona, Spain. Pakistani community in Barcelona has been voicing its discontent against former Pakistani Consulate General Barcelona whose tenure was 2019-2022 and Pakistani Ambassador over the manner in which a Pak journalist, who was critical of them, was black listed and his passport impounded. The Consul General (CG) was alleged to be involved in corruption in the Consulate, including hiring of local staff. He is known to have an Army background and has supposedly worked in the ISI training institute.
Controversy erupted in September 2023 when Spain based Pak origin journalist, who had highlighted CG’s corrupt practices, travelled to Pakistan. The Pak FIA raided his house twice and he was forced to put up an apology letter, apparently at the behest of the CG. Later the journalist was put on blacklist and his passport impounded. He is currently stuck in Pakistan and trying to gather support in his favour. Many civil society members in Pakistan too including some journalists have come out openly in his support and condemned the misuse of Pakistani state agencies by powerful government officials of Army and ISI. The CG, currently Pak Ambassador to Oman, visited Barcelona recently, wherein he got into altercations and resorted to abusive language that has angered the community again.
The new CG who succeeded him in January 2022 was no less nuisance than his predecessor. In June 2022, controversy first erupted when a female local staff, a Pak national, registered sexual harassment complaint against him to the local police, Pakistani Ambassador and Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The lady worked as his private secretary. In an act of vengeance, the CG terminated her service citing improper behavior. Though there were no concrete evidences against the CG, the Pakistani Ambassador in damage control mode immediately recommended CG’s reversion; subsequently he was removed from the post in September 2022 and recalled to Islamabad.
Not long ago, Pakistan’s Consulate in Barcelona was in news for another controversy. In March 2021, a Pakistani national residing in Spain, fed up of the atrocities inflicted on him and on his family by Pakistani authorities, had tried to immolate himself in front Pakistan’s Consulate in Barcelona. He alleged that his family was attacked and tortured by Pakistani authorities in his native place in Pakistan and his immolation act was a sign of protest against the atrocities perpetuated by the state against its own citizens. After the incident became public, Consular General of Pakistan in Barcelona issued a press briefing portraying the victim as mentally disturbed and having long term criminal background.
The above incidents highlight the oppression perpetuated by Pak authorities on its own citizens and depict the grim reality inside the country. Such incidents have only eroded Pakistan’s credibility in the eyes of international community. Pakistani Diplomats, when exposed, take undue advantage of the diplomatic immunity to escape the punishment. It is time the diplomatic immunity is waived off for such diplomats to prevent them from executing their nefarious designs.