Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

British Firms Pulling Staff out of Pakistan as Security Fear Rises

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

British Firms Pulling Staff out of Pakistan as Security Fear Rises

Article excerpt

Byline: JAMES MCLEAN

BRITISH companies in Pakistan are evacuating expatriate staff amid mounting concern that rising tension there is putting them in danger.

BP is among oil and gas companies to have moved its foreign nationals out of the country, leaving the firm's 20,000 barrels per day production in the hands of 600 local staff. BHP Billiton, which operated gas wells in southern Sindh province, evacuated its 14 staff and their families last Friday, also leaving its business in the hands of its Pakistani employees.

Strategically maintaining gas production is a key concern for a Pakistani administration facing internal unrest over its negotiations with an American administration gearing up to attack neighbouring Afghanistan.

As a net oil importer, the country can buy more crude, but its internal gas provides much of an already tense urban population with energy for basic activities such as cooking.

Austrian gas and oil firm OMV has also moved its foreign workers out.

However, Premier Oil said earlier this week that although it was offering its expatriate workers the chance to leave, it was not compelling them to do so.

Lasmo, now owned by Italy's ENI, also has an important role in the country's gas production.

The move by foreign companies to start pulling out expats follows Foreign Office advice to British nationals to avoid Pakistan if possible, and reports that diplomats in the Pakistani capital Islamabad are advising foreign oil and gas workers to leave the country.

A British trade mission, due to fly out this week, has been postponed.

Security risks in Pakistan have proved all too real in recent years.

Four American auditors working for oil firm Union Texas, subsequently acquired by BP through its Arco purchase, were shot and killed in the southern port city of Karachi in 1997. …

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