Local news media were present during a stand-off between four consulate employees and Pakistani military and police in Peshawar today. It appears to have been a standard exercise in harassment, with the military stopping and holding one of our vehicles, and our employees refusing to either get out of their car or to move it elsewhere. Once diplomatic identities were established, our employees were free to go.
Here's what the media reported about the four foreigners detained in Peshawar:
PESHAWAR: Army personnel detained four Americans after they were stopped at an army check post in Peshawar. However, they were allowed to leave after almost two hours.
According to Express 24/7 reporter Sumaira Khan, the foreigners travelling in a grey land cruiser were stopped at an army check post opposite the destroyed CID office after they failed to follow protocol.
FC Cantt. released a statement saying they men were released after official confirmation was received verifying the identities of the four men. Their passports and documents were in order.
A police officer on site said that the misunderstanding came about after the American officials failed to follow protocol. Given the current law and order situation, police and army personnel took every precaution to ensure the safety of foreigners in the area.
It was initially believed that these men were members of Blackwater or Xe corporation. The foreigners said they maintained that they were staff of the US consulate and lived in the diplomatic enclave.
It was later verified that the four men in fact belonged to the US embassy in Islamabad and were present lawfully in the country.
The number plate displayed on the back of their car, bearing numbers IDF 7582, was found to be fake.
The car also had another numberplate, one which is normally issued to diplomats, resting on their dashboard bearing numbers CD-64-164.
They refused to talk to either the media or Pakistani security officials present at the scene.
They had failed to follow protocol reserved for foreigners moving in the city.
US officials are supposed to inform police and intelligence officials.
The check post where they were stopped is near Gora Qabristan area of Peshawar and is in close vicinity of the destroyed CID office in Peshawar as well as an SSG paratroopers schools along with residences of FIA and intelligence officials.
[TSB note: the CID office was destroyed in a suicide attack by Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan on May 26. It is located on Jamrud Road, very close to our consulate residences. There is nothing at all suspicious about consulate vehicles being there, despite insinuations by the local press about sensitive sites.]
Police and army officials released the men after official confirmation of their links with the US consulate was received. The four men had produced documents including a diplomatic passport, indicating that they were staff of the US consulate. Their visas were valid.
The had locked themselves in their car and were refusing to speak to security officials, waiting for a representative from the US consulate or the embassy.
It was two weeks ago that another consulate vehicle was ambushed with a roadside bomb while traveling in the vicinity of Jamrud Road.
Even without that photo above, I can easily imagine how the tension of living under constant threat from both terrorist groups and our host government's security services is wearing on our employees in Peshawar.