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Will Sweden’s decision to close Pakistan embassy set a precedent for other EU countries?

Pakistan and Sweden flags (Photo: Twitter)

Sweden has closed its Islamabad embassy indefinitely due to security concerns. The decision will have implications on bilateral relations like trade, education and people-to-people ties besides tarnishing Pakistan’s image globally as an unsafe country.

A short statement posted on the embassy website said: “Due to the current security situation in Islamabad, the Embassy of Sweden is closed for visitors”. It did not say when it will resume its operations in Pakistan.

The embassy added that the migration section is unable to handle requests of any kind. It also said the embassy cannot send any documents to Swedish consulates, Sweden or “your home address. We understand that this will cause inconvenience, however, the safety of our applicants and staff members is of highest priority”.

Sweden had informed the Pakistani Foreign Office in advance about its decision to close down the embassy. According to the Pakistani media, Islamabad even advised the embassy to review its decision.

It is believed that Sweden took the decision after a comprehensive assessment of the security situation in Pakistan.

The South Asian nation has witnessed numerous killings of foreign nationals including that of Sri Lankan national Priyantha Kumara over fake blasphemy charges as well as Pakistani women of foreign nationality.

With the closure of the Swedish embassy, relations between the two countries will be impacted severely. Badly affected will be Pakistani students intending to study in Sweden for whom the visa process takes between 4-6 months. The closure will also impact the Pakistani diaspora in Sweden as the to-and-fro visits between family and friends may not materialise easily.

The decision may have an impact on other European nations which are cagey about security and terror impacting their citizens.

In February this year, China too shut down the consular section of its Islamabad embassy citing poor security. Before closing shutters on its consular section, Beijing advised its nationals to enhance personal safety measures due to increasing attacks by the Pakistani Taliban, also known as the Tehreek-e-Taliban (TTP) and the Baloch insurgents across the nation.

Chinese nationals have been attacked across Pakistan for a variety of reasons plunging diplomatic relations to new lows.

Last month, Pakistan’s ministry of foreign affairs had informed its embassies globally that it would not be able to pay additional bonuses and allowances to staff and diplomats due to the economic woes it has been facing since last year. The fuel allowance of diplomats has been revoked and travel outside the capital cities has been reduced in missions in the UK, Canada, Europe, Africa, even the Middle East, Central Asia, the Pacific region and the Far East.

The Washington embassy seems to be the worst off as allowances were stopped immediately. Moreover, Pakistan decided not to offer lunch, supper, and high tea at its official events in Washington. Another far-reaching decision was to stop events at hotels and organise these at the embassy itself.

The decisions by Sweden and China will have far-reaching consequences for Pakistan’s global image and relations with other nations at a time when it desperately needs finances to tide over day-to-day finances and provide food to its citizens.

Also Read: China denies man killed in Karachi by Sindhi rebel group was its citizen