US 'hip hop diplomats' detained in Islamabad

Published: November 16, 2011
American hip-hop group FEW Collective, performs during a concert at Kuch Khaas. PHOTO : MUHAMMAD JAVAID/EXPRESS TRIBUNE

American hip-hop group FEW Collective, performs during a concert at Kuch Khaas. PHOTO : MUHAMMAD JAVAID/EXPRESS TRIBUNE

American hip-hop group FEW Collective, performs during a concert at Kuch Khaas. PHOTO : MUHAMMAD JAVAID/EXPRESS TRIBUNE Group detained for allegedly taking photographs and video footage of the Islamabad airport. PHOTO: AFP/FILE

ISLAMABAD: Pakistani military officials on Wednesday briefly detained a visiting US hip-hop troupe, accusing a performer of taking sensitive photographs in the garrison city of Rawalpindi, the embassy said.

(View slideshow: Hip Hop Hooray!)

The nine American nationals were detained by the Islamabad police for allegedly taking photographs and making video footage of the Benazir Bhutto International Airport.

The six members of FEW Collective, a US officer, Pakistani staff from the embassy and Pakistani musicians were detained for around an hour on a military base in the garrison city of Rawalpindi, a spokesman told AFP.

The police claim that they approached the six US nationals when they witnessed them taking photographs of the airport while sitting in three vehicles. They subsequently deleted the pictures and footage from their cameras when the police interrogated them.

Police sources disclosed that the group did not divulge any information, and that the Americans are adamant that the US embassy should speak on their behalf.

The Chicago-based group is in Pakistan at the invitation of the US embassy and performed a concert Tuesday as part of a cultural exchange programme.

“While one of the performers may have taken a photograph while travelling in an embassy vehicle on a public road, no sensitive installations were visible from the vehicle,” said the US embassy.
“The performer was not aware of restrictions placed on photography in or near the cantonment, and had no intention of taking photographs of sensitive Pakistani government or military installations,” it added.

report published earlier in The Express Tribune stated that foreign citizens, including diplomats, have been visiting military installations and other prohibited areas without obtaining permission from the government.

According to sources inside the interior ministry, reports issued by intelligence agencies indicate that diplomats, foreign employees of nongovernmental organisations (NGOs) and other foreign nationals have been visiting – and photographing – areas that non-Pakistani citizens are not permitted to enter.

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Reader Comments (71)

  • Sao Lao
    Nov 16, 2011 - 2:32PM

    We don’t want more Raymond Davises roaming our streets. Deport them back to US.


  • Nov 16, 2011 - 2:39PM

    Actually they must be inspired by the landmarks of Pakistan.. Recommend

  • Americano
    Nov 16, 2011 - 2:46PM

    Oh excellent! This poor American lands at Islamabad airport tonight. I’ll be sure to keep my camera in check.


  • Sirat-ul-mustaqeem
    Nov 16, 2011 - 2:49PM

    Arrest them and find out what are the reasons behind their actions and if they belong to any security agency in US or if they are a contractor which in most cases they are.


  • Iron hand
    Nov 16, 2011 - 2:50PM

    Pakistanis can spot this but they missed Osama? Lol.


  • Ali
    Nov 16, 2011 - 2:50PM

    And then our govt. wonders how foreigners get all the information… why is ISI not keeping tabs on all foreign personnel?

    Foreigners have no reason to be visiting sensitive sites such as military sites unless invited to do so – least of all photographing them, our army and ISI should be more vigilant about these things and should not give foreigners especially Americans such free range.


  • hedgefunder
    Nov 16, 2011 - 2:54PM

    Now why would they be filming and photographing the Islamabad Airport???
    Perhaps, because they decided to class it as Architectural Masterpiece and wanted to copy its designs!!!!!


  • mohsin
    Nov 16, 2011 - 3:00PM

    they have license to do every thing any where every where becase they know no one can touch them .but time is not very long when they would be treated with iron hand.


  • chaaaaaaaaaaaaaa
    Nov 16, 2011 - 3:21PM

    PPP Zinadbad
    Musharraf & his enlightened moderation Zindabad
    Pakista’s middle class new found freedom Zindabad.
    We dont really care what else goes on we just wanna eat , drink & be merry!


  • Hamid
    Nov 16, 2011 - 3:44PM

    Incidents like these were being reported in Iraq just before the Iraq invasion. I can smell something really bad. God Forbid. Peace is all we want.


  • Anserali Khan
    Nov 16, 2011 - 4:12PM

    Just an innocent question: is taking photograph of Islamabad Airport against the law?

    Just google Islamabad airport photos and see the results


  • Yuri Kondratyuk
    Nov 16, 2011 - 4:18PM

    Pakistanis need to accept the fact that they are a colony of US, China and Saudi Arabia all at the same time.
    Sad but true.


  • Farooq Malik
    Nov 16, 2011 - 4:22PM

    Interrogate them and put out propper protocols for pete’s sake so these guys know what they can and cant do!


  • Observer
    Nov 16, 2011 - 4:51PM

    An report?” Haha! And this is what they call an English newspaper!! :p A front page highlighted story with such mistakes…


  • Love
    Nov 16, 2011 - 5:03PM

    Arresting foreigners for taking photographs at your airport only shows that we are a paranoid nation, and that we can wave a big goodbye to any tourism…

    How often would you like to go to a country where you’re expected to know where to photograph and where not to.. and for God’s sake, don’t give me the “you-should-follow-local-rules” argument. It’s not like you give them a manual when they land into your airport.

    Our collective paranoia, coupled with our collective incompetence, and communal notions of self-grandeur will inevitably leave us isolated in this world.. much like North Korea.

    God, I love my country and its people!Recommend

  • Khan
    Nov 16, 2011 - 5:08PM

    @Anserali Khan:
    Google any airport in the world not just Islamabad airport and you get its pictures but go and take pictures ‘of’ any airport in the world and you will be surely held within minutes … Google images are (1) not up to date (2) not focused/zoomed in to specific areas
    A few months back some Bangladeshi students were going to Lake District in UK a very famous tourist destination and their Sat Nav was playing up .. they ended up on wrong road just to be held by special police for 12 hours and their houses searched in London as they were going on a road which led to a sensitive installation.


  • Meekal Ahmed
    Nov 16, 2011 - 5:09PM

    Some of the comments here are downright scary.


  • ijaz Mir
    Nov 16, 2011 - 5:12PM

    I can Google any house in Islamabad. all sensitive place can be Google,Guys wake up we are living in 21st century.


  • Faisal
    Nov 16, 2011 - 5:19PM

    So what, this is US based government and they are free to roam around in a country which is their slave. Even they have their our president in ISB…its not even a news now…


  • Ali Hasan
    Nov 16, 2011 - 5:41PM

    Over reaction to the extreme. At no airport is taking photographs illegal. Insanity rules. Recommend

  • Schazad
    Nov 16, 2011 - 5:49PM

    Is this a big deal? I don’t see any big deal in it. So what if you take pictures and make video of torn down, dirty crumbling airport site with lots and lots of garbage around it. Wats the big deal…?


  • Salman
    Nov 16, 2011 - 5:52PM

    A report published earlier in The Express Tribune stated that foreign citizens, including diplomats, have been visiting military installations and other prohibited areas without obtaining permission from the government.

    something fishy. Grill them behind bars completely before releasing them.Recommend

  • Long Standing
    Nov 16, 2011 - 6:01PM

    Would a Chinese have met with the same fate? I wonder.


  • Aamir
    Nov 16, 2011 - 6:04PM

    “The performer was not aware of restrictions placed on photography in or near the cantonment, and had no intention of taking photographs of sensitive Pakistani government or military installations”

    Why the US embassy didn’t inform them about the restrictions, definitely there is something fishy. Recommend

  • Yasir Mehmood
    Nov 16, 2011 - 6:08PM

    Well its absurd to think that americans themselves carry out spy missions, they have local operatives to carry out spy missions. This is another news item to create hysteria and defame the government and i will not comment on who is behind this.Recommend

  • Straight_Talk
    Nov 16, 2011 - 6:10PM

    Pakistan cannot call off this Pak-US relation. They need USA. So USA will be nasty to you people. I mean, this is so simple, isn’t it ? USA is simply provoking Pakistan to call the relationship off which Pakistan cannot afford to do. So that is how you kind of balance off the edge that Pakistan seeks to drive home by nuclear blackmail ( i.e. the saga of a volatile state with nuclear weapons and missile technology ). The US Juggernaut rammed Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya in kind of a blitzkrieg. But that huge thing has halted at the border of Pakistan. Obviously they are not going to sit back. Instead of thinking ” 10 times ” to attack they would unleash the CIA and the AID and/or trade carrot. CIA surely wants to beat down Pakistan till it gives in and then remote-control the Foreign Policy of Pakistan. As Pakistan nibbles on the AID/trade this is going to get ugly.


  • Syed Hussein El-Edroos
    Nov 16, 2011 - 6:14PM

    @Anserali Khan: Exactly my comments. Our security agencies are so behind the times.


  • SAB
    Nov 16, 2011 - 6:20PM

    Before we get more ET Burger Brigade trolling on this post.. I know freedom should be respected but so should be the freedom of every Pakistani. Without relating to any third part event i would like to tell about my vacations in London this year, While travelling through the hug ST Pancras International Train station, i was inspired by the Olympic sign, i took out my phone camera & took 3 photographs. While doing so, i was approached by a plain cloth police officer who told me to go with him (merely because i was taking picture and had a Pakistani Flag key chain attached to my bag). He interrogated me for next 45 minutes, asked me why i took pictures of an Olympic sign? went through the phone-book/sms logs and finally released me after i had missed my train. So i guess if we aren’t allowed to roam so why should they be ?


  • Cautious
    Nov 16, 2011 - 6:22PM

    And this the famous Muslim hospitality? Since when is taking a picture from a car on a public road a crime in any country? This is classic harassment . Shame on you.Recommend

  • haris
    Nov 16, 2011 - 6:31PM

    @Anserali Khan:
    but why they have deleted when security personnel approached them


    Nov 16, 2011 - 6:39PM

    A big diplomatic effort turned sour at the end. Nothing is going right for US in Pakistan.


  • MBN
    Nov 16, 2011 - 6:54PM

    Get over it. Its not just Americans that get detained, much worse happens to normal pakistanis. I was a group of students studying the commercial breakdown of buildings in blue area 2 years ago for a project and a part of our group was detained, the females of the group harassed and our part of the group was chased around by cars for taking pictures. Other students from our college were also detained once for taking pictures again for a project (architecture students, so our sites are usually located in the twin cities) and detained for 12 plus hours until the entire faculty, parents of the concerned students and a number of politically connected people called through to have them released. They were waiting for the rest of their group to reach the place.

    These people got off easy lolRecommend

  • Nov 16, 2011 - 7:02PM

    The frustration of the Establishment is amazing.Recommend

  • sajid
    Nov 16, 2011 - 7:05PM

    @ Love
    They were taking pictures of an AIRPORT an AIRPORT. This is not about tourism. Go to any airport of the world and even a simple act of looking around can land you in trouble.
    We seriously need to get some more self-respect. Just for tourism we cannot sacrifice our country’s safety and well-being.


  • Cautious
    Nov 16, 2011 - 7:09PM

    They subsequently deleted the pictures and footage from their cameras when the police interrogated them.
    And no doubt the American’s have satellite pictures of the entire event – it’s a pathetic reason to harass people who are here on a goodwill visit.


  • Anon
    Nov 16, 2011 - 7:25PM

    @Anserali Khan
    No its not against the law technically. But in any part of the world if a bunch of dudes (esp all nine) are standing and taking pictures of bridges and airports that will come off as extremely suspicious and they will be arrested. Dozens of cases of people being arrested and deported have taken place in US for taking pictures of places like dams and bridges.


  • Khurram Mansoor
    Nov 16, 2011 - 7:33PM

    Why is this even a news. they make you bare naked on the airports and you cannot question or even inform them not take pics of some sites.

    Grow up @Dawn


  • Anon
    Nov 16, 2011 - 7:40PM

    What kind of blockheads that too rappers would take pictures of Ibd airport out of all places in Isloo for no good reason? Great job State Dept! Who needs mullahs when we have the State Department itself coming up with ways to confirm all the conspiracies and stereotypes people have about the US. Yeah, Keep sending such suspicious people to Pakistan, you seem to be succeeding in ‘softening’ your image in the eyes of the Pakistani people..Recommend

  • Kafka
    Nov 16, 2011 - 7:47PM

    @Ali Hasan, Schazad
    Such sweet naive comments. Why dont you next time try taking pictures of the crumbling Dulles Airport or the JFK and see whether or not you get arrested. Or better yet before launching sarcastic comments why don’t you google the news and see how many people have been arrested in the US for taking pictures of the airport, bridges and dams. Also I know there is something called the Google Map but in any part of the world you will be arrested for taking pictures of public places in a suspicious manner.


  • Nadir
    Nov 16, 2011 - 8:12PM

    What rubbish. Has anyone gone through Google Earth or Flickr recently! they are enough pictures of our “strategic assets” available there. And whats the big deal about taking pictures at the airport? If police can smoke infront of a large non smoking signs whats the problem with taking pictures? IF that was the case, we should have arrested everyone who was taking pictures of returning Hajis.Recommend

  • MTS
    Nov 16, 2011 - 8:16PM

    Muslim hospitality? That’s absurd..This has nothing to do with religion, my friend.


  • Roflcopter
    Nov 16, 2011 - 8:21PM

    Spies disguised as hip hop artists….how original


  • Raheel
    Nov 16, 2011 - 9:04PM

    Hang em they al contractors ,,, y they takin pics ,,, will they let few Pakistani let do that at JFK


  • kojack
    Nov 16, 2011 - 9:10PM

    @Iron hand:
    US Forces spot Osama but they missed 9/11. looooolz.


  • Javad
    Nov 16, 2011 - 9:18PM

    US embassy should address their invitees with security issues in Pakistan to avoid mishaps like this in future.


  • MarkH
    Nov 16, 2011 - 9:27PM

    They were acting like tourists.Just because they’re called “diplomats” doesn’t mean they are actual government workers. They’re entertainers with whatever message it is they may have that people who live in Pakistan are probably more aware of as I didn’t even know they existed until recently and I’m not a fan of the type of music, either.

    Get a grip, freakshow.Recommend

  • zalim singh
    Nov 16, 2011 - 9:49PM

    these guys are not spies…


  • Dr.Tanwir Ahmad
    Nov 16, 2011 - 9:50PM

    When I got down at Kashgar airport in 2005 with my camera in hand.I got a photograph of my wife getting down the stairs of the plane of Southern China Airline.One of the crew member of the plane came forward to make a photo of both of us.He made a number of them with my camera.
    Same happene.
    d in Colombo.I made a number of photos of threeGorges Dam at YECHANG
    Nobody bothers.It is a norm.It is Pakistan where it is a crime,intelligence or saboutage and what not.


  • hamza khan
    Nov 16, 2011 - 9:54PM


    intelligence collecting is not as easy. it requires massive manpower and resources. plus, theres no mention of the ISI here. this was local police intelligence in all likelihood, or perhaps other civilian institutions like IB.


  • Kafka
    Nov 16, 2011 - 10:15PM

    True, because spies have special badges that separate them from diplomats. I am sure they were only well intentioned musicians just like vaccine injecting CIA doctors in Abottabad were humanitarians.
    I am not casting judgments on who they were, but do you realise your country’s agencies covert operations in Pakistan under the guise of humanitarians and other occupation are putting genuine people at risk? And the irony is that these spy games in Afghanistan and Pakistan, havent even helped you win the war – only made things worse.


  • gp65
    Nov 16, 2011 - 10:27PM

    “Google any airport in the world not just Islamabad airport and you get its pictures but go and take pictures ‘of’ any airport in the world and you will be surely held within minutes ”
    Not in the US.


  • Raza
    Nov 16, 2011 - 10:40PM

    Only cause they’re black!


  • gp65
    Nov 16, 2011 - 10:46PM

    Millions of Pakistanis live in /travel to US/UK/Canada. Are you telling me they do not take photographs while driving around? Have you heard of any of them getting arrested?
    Someone got ballistic because the photographs were taken at the airport. I have personally taken pictures of the Singapore airport on one of my first foreign visits out of India. No-one troubled me. As for bridges, do you think Pakistanis who visit San Francisco do nto take a picture of the golden gate? Do they get arrested?
    There is a report that is referred to where it is implied that somehow NGO workers and diplomats have been going to places forbidden to non-Pakistanis. When you read the details it says all of southern Punjab is ‘sensitive’ as also ‘Quetta’. The fact that these people had gone there to do flood relief work is conveniently ignored. Also since they want to prevent corruption they needed to take pictures of what was going on.
    I would request the people who are getting bent out of shape by this rapper taking some pictures on Islamabad airport and while driving through a car to say where in the Pakistani tourism website does it say you cannot go to southern Punjab or Quetta without special permission. Where does it say that you cannot take pictures while driving through a city? If people are not informed they cannot do something or that a particular place is out of bounds for them – it is very uneasonable to come to the conclusion that they were spying.
    Also there was someone who said that google earth is outdated. Not sure if they have ever used it. It shows how things are at this moment. If there is a dog today in my yard and not there tmorrow, google earth will reflect the difference. If people were inside closed structures taking pictures where signs clearly said no photography – I would hold them accountable. Not otherwise.

  • gp65
    Nov 16, 2011 - 10:49PM

    @Khurram Mansoor:
    “Why is this even a news. they make you bare naked on the airports and you cannot question or even inform them not take pics of some sites”.

    They do not make you bare naked on their airports.
    Of course you can inform them not to take pictures but they were not ‘informed’, they were arrested. How many Pakistanis have been arrested in these Western countries for simply taking photographs? Especially where there was no signage saying ‘ Photography not allowed’.

  • rehmat
    Nov 16, 2011 - 11:02PM

    “A report published earlier in The Express Tribune stated that foreign citizens, including diplomats, have been visiting military installations and other prohibited areas without obtaining permission from the government”.

    Is the security of military installations so weak that anyone can simply ‘visit’ without having proper authorization? When you read the report basically they describe anyone visitng ‘the garrison cit of Rawalpindi’ as bieng in a sensitive place. Seriously people with valid visas to Pakistan would need government permission to go to Pindi? I know Indians are an exceptions because India and Pakistan only give each other visas for specific city – ut I am talking about others).

    That report also called Quetta and souther Punjab as sensitiveplaces. Yet the people visited were NGO employees working on flood relief in those areas last year. On the one hand you beg the world for money for flood relief but when people show up on the ground to administer flood relief (so it does not get pocketed by the corrupt government) then you have these media reports implying they are spies?


  • Sameer Qadir
    Nov 17, 2011 - 12:04AM

    I wonder how I would be treated if I arrived as a Pakistani at JFK and started taking pictures of that airport.I believe I would be six feet under in an unmarked box in an unknown area.


  • let there be peace
    Nov 17, 2011 - 12:16AM

    You can never guess which building will turn out to be ‘sensitive location’ in Pakistan. Remember Abottabad?


  • Sao Lao
    Nov 17, 2011 - 3:08AM

    @Iron hand:
    as if he came with a passport and visa through immigration.Recommend

  • anyone
    Nov 17, 2011 - 5:02AM

    WHAT PICTURES OF THE AIRPORT???? SHOCKING!!! i have never heard of tourists taking pictures at the airport… and with cameras!!!! does sony know that tourists take pictures?

    my my xenophobia and hypocrisy reigns supreme in our country… “how dare foreigners come to our country!!!.. they must be evil… check them for a espionage!!!! oh by the way did you hear that my cousin got randomly searched in the US? those american racists!!!” hahahah….pathetic


  • Syed
    Nov 17, 2011 - 5:08AM

    @Dr.Tanwir Ahmad: Read sameer Qadir Comments carefully, I have recommened it. If you don’t understand, why not visit US and you will realize how Pakistanies are treated at the airport/borders and etc.


  • Sid
    Nov 17, 2011 - 5:24AM

    As if obtaining such photos through any other sources than through the under cover Americans was impossible. Very efficient and smart move by a very smart police !


  • Nov 17, 2011 - 7:48AM

    Abdur Rahman Baba says “Though the wealthy, drink water from a golden cup, I prefer this clay bowl of mine” Khushal khan khatak says “Don’t eat that sweat which is acquired by humble request. Dry bread is for better than it.” “A deceptive heart is destructive specially if it’s heart of a leader, such leader defames himself and destroys the nation”. Regretably we observe it because our Rulers are begging and made the Nation a beggar.


  • gp65
    Nov 17, 2011 - 7:58AM

    @Sameer Qadir:
    “I wonder how I would be treated if I arrived as a Pakistani at JFK and started taking pictures of that airport”

    They would ignore you if you were taking pictures – not inside the structure but outside which anyone can easily get via google earth.


  • Sajid
    Nov 17, 2011 - 9:01AM

    @Sameer Qadir:
    I have some photographs of me that I took at Chicago Airport, Los Angeles Airport, Heathrow London etc. Nobody gives a damn, You are wrong, only people like you and Syed (who form a majority in Pakistan) are so insecure that taking a photograph becomes a crime. Do you people seriously think that you airports are so important? I could walk around Islamabad airport and sketch on the wall later that day! that’s how big your airport is!


  • Rizwan S
    Nov 17, 2011 - 11:31AM

    Yup, after CIA contractor Raymond Davis debacle, US government is now hiring hip hop artists to spy on Pakistanis. It is a package deal for entertainment and espionage.


  • ijaz Mir
    Nov 17, 2011 - 12:30PM

    There are three counties, Pakistan ,India and north Korea where you cannot take photos at airport or Bridges etc.

    American drones attach North waziristan with a pinpoint accuracy, I wonder who send them photos every day.?

    We always forget taking photos is thing of past. May be some terrorist will need photos to plan a attach.

    Most of the airports in the world full plan of airport is available on information counter.


  • Kafka
    Nov 17, 2011 - 2:29PM

    What privacy of secret installations?? Go to google earth and you can find everything for free. What about the paid satellite images and further what about the satellite images obtained for spying purposes? US does not have to rely on hand held cameras for spying.


  • Jawad U Rehman
    Nov 17, 2011 - 9:32PM

    There are only two possibilities: Either the ‘artists’ were actually spies, or they were really innocent artists taking pictures at a public place like the airport. In the first case, if they were really spies, then to let them go after one hour investigation is shameful. They should have been outed and exposed in front of the world media. However, if they were artists and were merely harassed because they were taking pictures unknowingly at the public areas of the airport and no other military/sensitive installation, then an incident like this will further add to our image of a paranoid and increasingly isolationist nation (a la Iran, North Korea, Cuba etc). We have already lost international sports thanks to our pandering to the extremists in search of strategic depth, and now we are on the fast track to lose artistic and cultural links with the world as well due to the paranoia like this. The security and intelligence agencies of the country need to do a better job at protecting the citizenry from the real threat to their lives and future – the extremists within – rather than antagonizing the whole nation against ‘foreigners’.


  • Babur Chughtai
    Nov 18, 2011 - 3:06AM

    Anyone linked to the US embassy in Islamabad cannot be trusted. Our security officials should be commended for taking timely action. For those ignorant of their own country: Pakistan is in a state of war. We’ve lost 35,000 Pakistanis in a few years because of someone else’s failed war next door. Cantonements across the nation are no-go areas where taking pictures or making videos without permission are prohibited.


  • syed
    Nov 18, 2011 - 9:48AM

    Too soft. Imagine a Pakistani diplomat taking pictures of JFK. He would end up in Guantanamo


  • Tariq Shaikh
    Nov 19, 2011 - 12:36PM

    Come on Pakistan…. This is not the 19th century. Have you ever seen the resolution of Google earth? Why would someone take limited view pictures of sensitive installations with cameras when they can measure and analyze human shadows from space to discover Osama?


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