Thursday, July 14, 2011

Banned From Peshawar (Cause For Mixed Feelings, I'm Sure)

There was another incident of official harassment of our embassy personnel in Pakistan yesterday. This time two employees were denied permission to enter Peshawar.

I don't know about them, but I've been thrown out of better places. Being barred from Peshawar must be kind of a mixed bag - one part harassment and one part relief.

It sounds like all parties followed the standard drill. For the Americans: stay inside the car, hold your passports up to the window, call the consulate for assistance, stay put while negotiations go on. For the Pakistanis: call Police HQ, call ISI, call Express 24/7 News so they can get film of this, demand the Americans get out of the car, demand the Americans produce passports, visas, diplomatic identity cards, letters from the Foreign Ministry, birth certificates and mothers maiden names, Letters of Transit signed by General De Gaulle, and anything else they can think of to drag this out for all its worth.

From the Express Tribune, US, Norwegian citizens barred from entering Peshawar:

Two United States (US) citizens and a Norwegian have been disallowed from entering Peshawar after they were found to be travelling without a No Objection Certificate (NOC), Express 24/7 reported on Thursday.

The foreigners were taken into custody at the Peshawar Interchange on the Islamabad-Peshawar Motorway and were sent back to Islamabad.

Sources have said the foreigners were carrying valid visas and passports, but did not have an NOC for travelling to Peshawar. There are also reports of an automatic rifle being kept inside the vehicle.

The police department was given clear instructions from the Foreign Office and Interior Ministry to stop the foreigners from entering Peshawar if they did not have valid papers, sources said.

From other Pakistani press and blog accounts, it seems that the U.S. Embassy employees and the Norwegian citizens were in two separate vehicles, not traveling together.

The Peshawar Interchange is a toll plaza on the highway that runs between there and Islamabad, and it's the point where traffic exits the highway and enters Peshawar.

What's a "No Objection Certificate?" According to a Pakistan Times story, it's the explicit written permission that is required by the Pakistani government before foreign diplomats may travel to remote areas:

ISLAMABAD: Visits of foreign diplomats to remote areas and country side without proper No Objection Certificate (NOC) from concerned authorities especially on outskirts of Prohibited Areas’ is not allowed without permission, a government statement said.

-- snip --

Foreign diplomats need to strictly abide by the laws of the land and must get permission for such adventures, the statement added.

I'm not sure exactly where these adventurous outskirts of Prohibited Areas are, or even whether they are announced in advance. Maybe the Foreign Ministry issues a map. Better yet, they could put warning signs right on the roads, the way medieval sea charts were marked "Beyond Here There Be Monsters."


Anonymous said...

That's a great picture TSB!

Anonymous said...

Hey, those transit letters signed by General De Gaulle cannot be revoked or refused.

TSB said...

They can't even be questioned. I'm glad somebody got that old reference!

Anonymous said...

TSB: It also sounds like the new voter registration laws being pushed here in 34 states by the Republicans!
For example in Texas your student ID
is no good but a gun registration card is fine. gwb

TSB said...


I like it! I wish Virgina would discourage students from registering to vote. Or encourage them to be gun owners in order to register.

We don't have gun registration here, of course, but maybe we could have them carry a piece into the registrar's office, or just register during hunting season and show off their favorite shotgun.

Anonymous said...

TSB: You troglodytes are the wave of the future! Keep up the great reporting. gwb

Anonymous said...

TSB: Not Waiting For DiFi! Even the troglodytes should support this one.

Cole, ACLU, Sue CIA, FBI seeking Bloggergate Documents

Posted on 07/14/2011 by Juan
Spencer Ackerman at Wired reports on the Freedom of Information Act lawsuit launched on my behalf by the American Civil Liberties Union against the CIA, FBI, Department of Justice, and Office of the Director of National Intelligence. See also the Detroit News and the Detroit Free Press.

TSB said...

If Cole gets anything from that FOIA request, I hope it won't be as deadly boring as the FBI's old COINTELPRO files.

Anonymous said...

TSB: I have to admit HRC's approach to Libya is starting to look more sensible than I thought. How do you think that is going? gwb

TSB said...

I don't think we really have an approach to Libya (or much else in the region), we're just being dragged along in the wake of the French President's humanitarian intervention on behalf of a highly questionable rebel coalition.

He, in turn, was dragged into it by his Foreign Minister - not a diplomat, but a professional do-gooder who was co-founder of Médecins Sans Frontières and Médecins du Monde - and especially by his pet philosopher, Bernard Henri-Levy.

Of Levy, see this:

"The question is this: should American policy, let alone French, be determined by an open-shirt, Charvet-wearing French philosophe? George Orwell once observed about James Burnham that intellectuals like to have the whip-hand--they relish the idea of exercising power, of seeing their ideals implemented. The results are usually bloody. See the French revolution."

The French are now disenchanted with the rebels, plus exhausted from the military effort they've made so far, and are trying to talk Qaddafi into a settlement.

Yesterday, we diplomatically recognized the rebel coalition, so we seem to have decided to back the losing side just as they start to lose.

This all looks to me like total confusion.

Anonymous said...

Thanks TSB! That is very illuminating. I like the way Stephen Cohen dissects the mess that is Afpakindia as well. tsb

Failure in AfPak: How the U.S. Got It Wrong
| More

Stephen Cohen | July 15, 2011

TSB said...

That Cohen article seems exactly right to me. We just don't have a national strategy for the region - either foreign policy or military - any more. Since going into Afghanistan we've merely been dealing with the consequences of that action, and not asking ourselves the big questions, like why we're there and what our goals are.

Thomas Ricks, the military writer, has said that when you ask the military about their strategy, all they can give you these days are their plans. Same thing goes for foreign policy.