Britons freed after diplomatic protest

Authorities in Pakistan released 35 Britons after 36 hours of house arrest on the site of a power station in Baluchistan at the weekend, following strong diplomatic protests. Most of the 35 were engineers working on National Power’s contract to operate and maintain the Hub River power station in the province. Administrative staff and nine […]

Authorities in Pakistan released 35 Britons after 36 hours of house arrest on the site of a power station in Baluchistan at the weekend, following strong diplomatic protests.

Most of the 35 were engineers working on National Power’s contract to operate and maintain the Hub River power station in the province.

Administrative staff and nine wives were also caught up in the curfew, which appears to have been prompted by the Pakistani Government’s acrimonious dispute with independent power projects of which Hub is one of the largest over tariff levels and allegations of pay-offs to former officials.

National Power’s administration manager on the site Dan Cowell reported that ‘low-level harassment’ of the ex-patriate staff on the Hub site started on 19 May.

The curfew was imposed on the evening of 22 May. The ex-pats were told they faced arrest if they left the compound, while food and water supplies to it were cut off in temperatures of around 45 C.

‘Local police had circled the site and threatened the expatriate members of staff,’ said a spokesman at the British High Commission in Islamabad. ‘We are frankly appalled and outraged.’

Sir David Dain, the British High Commissioner, registered ‘extreme protests’ with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs the following day, and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London made a formal complaint.

The encirclement of the compound was lifted at 8am (local time) on Sunday.