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."