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US diplomats illegally visit NW Pakistan

IRNA - Islamic Republic News Agency

Islamabad, July 21, IRNA -- US embassy officials have been spotted visiting Pakistan's northwest without proper permission as visiting the area requires special permission, official sources said Thursday.

In two recent incidents, the US diplomats have been sent back before they entered Peshawar, the capital of Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa province, they said.

The US embassy has reportedly conveyed its reservations to Pakistani authorities over the recent incidents of barring their diplomats to enter Peshawar.

Pakistani officials insist that all foreigners including foreign journalists require special permission from the Interior Ministry to go to the northwest and southwest of the country.

It has been noted that the US embassy officials have been visiting Peshawar without seeking special permission.

Pakistani authorities have now set up a check post on the Motorway between Peshawar and Islamabad to check the illegal movement of foreigners.

Local media reported on Thursday that a day after four US nationals were stopped from entering the provincial capital and sent back to Islamabad, six other US diplomats on Wednesday were barred from entering the city on the grounds that they did not have No-Objection Certificates (NOCs).

The US nationals were stopped at the Peshawar Motorway Interchange and were asked to return to Islamabad even after they showed US diplomatic passports to the security officials. The diplomats told the officials that they had been told by the US embassy that an NOC was not required for entry into Peshawar. Pakistani officials, however, informed them that possession of diplomatic passports was not enough.

'No foreigner is allowed to enter Peshawar without prior permission from the authorities concerned and we have informed the US citizens to carry no-objection certificates (NOCs) while coming to Peshawar or else they won’t be allowed entry,' Khyber-Pakthukhwa’s Senior Minister Bashir Bilour told the media at Peshawar Press Club.

“Pakistan is a sovereign country and no foreigner is above the law,” he added.

In a statement, the United States embassy expressed concern over the matter, saying it was reviewing the issue and would soon take it up with the concerned authorities.

The six American nationals who were intercepted on Wednesday were identified as Chase Daniel Lee, Perez Michael John, Vaughan Jason Christopher, Denis Glass, Richard Shaw and William Cornell.

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