Monday, August 29, 2011

PAKISTANI GOVERNMENT URGES FOREIGNERS TO REGISTER WITH POLICE

As a follow-up to my last posting on the kidnapping of US citizen Warren Weinstein (August 24), the Pakistani leadership in Islamabad has developed a new strategy to reduce kidnappings: Direct foreigners traveling, working and living in Pakistan to keep local police stations informed about their whereabouts. In its statement, a spokesperson said “The government is stepping up its efforts to ensure the security of foreigners,” a senior official in the interior ministry told the media on Sunday (August 28).

COMMENT: The interior ministry’s spokesperson said that the Government of Pakistan is concerned over the rising incidents of kidnapping. According to ministry statistics, an estimated 3,000 foreigners are currently working in various diplomatic missions. The US is at top of the list with 879 workers. With 211 officials, the UK takes the second spot. Around 5,000 foreign students are also studying in various educational institutions in Pakistan.

First of all, why release the number of diplomats and other personnel working for the US and the UK? That just makes it easier for the Taliban and other groups to examine possible targets. On the other hand, it is actually unlikely that diplomats will be kidnapped, considering that the Pakistani government is responsible for protecting them.

On the other hand, the interior ministry spokesperson did NOT mention the number of foreigners in Pakistan that fall into Warren Weinstein's occupational category--non-governmental organizations (NGOs)--who are "soft targets" and most vulnerable to kidnapping because invariably they do not have the high level of security that embassies provide to their diplomatic personnel. A conservative estimate is that the number of foreigners working for NGOs in Pakistan could easily reach 3,000-5,000. Possibly more.

As for the Pakistani government's directing all foreigners to register with the police, my strong advice is: DON'T DO IT. Foreigners in Pakistan SHOULD, though, ensure that they have registered their name, employer, passport number, date and place of birth, email address, cell phone number and other contact information (as appropriate) with their respective embassy so that: (1) The embassy knows they're in Pakistan; and (2) Knows how to reach them in an emergency.

Another issue to consider is that it is unknown how many Pakistani governmental organizations have been infiltrated by the Taliban and groups linked to al-Qaeda. One must assume that this number is not zero.

If any of our readers are based in Pakistan and have security concerns, I'd be happy to address any specific questions they may have.


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