Pakistani officials leaving in protest
Wednesday, September 1, 2010
A delegation of senior Pakistani military officials visiting the United States for a major defense conference headed home in protest Tuesday night after they said they were interrogated and rudely treated by security officials at Dulles International Airport.
The nine-member group of high-ranking Pakistani officers boarded United Airlines Flight 727 from Washington to Tampa late Sunday but were pulled off the plane after one of them "made a comment to a flight attendant," said Mike Trevino, a United spokesman.
United did not provide details, but Pakistani officials said the remark came from a general in the delegation who - weary of a long day of travel that began in Islamabad - said, "I hope this is my last flight," or words to that effect.
That sparked a call to Dulles law enforcement officials, who detained the delegation for 2.5 hours and refused to allow the officials to contact their embassy or the U.S. military officials who had invited them to visit, according to a Pakistani military official who spoke on condition of anonymity.
The Pakistanis were finally released after police at Dulles determined they did not pose a threat. But instead of proceeding to Tampa, the delegation was ordered to return to Pakistan by their military superiors in Islamabad, in protest of their treatment, the Pakistani official said, adding that they were "verbally abused." The group of officers spent the next 48 hours in Washington, waiting for the next available flight home, and were scheduled to depart the United States on Tuesday evening.
The Pakistani officers were originally en route to U.S. Central Command headquarters in Tampa to attend the annual conference of the U.S.-Pakistan Military Consultative Committee, said Maj. David Nevers, a Central Command spokesman. He said Centcom officials hoped to reschedule the conference.
Pakistani officials said they received apologies from Pentagon and Centcom officials.