The men were detained by officers Saturday in the north-eastern city of Peshawar who accused them of belonging to “an unauthorised liaison office of the German embassy.” They were later released to the German embassy in the capital city of Islamabad.
“We have observed them for months. They travelled to the area around Peshawar to spy,” a Pakistani intelligence official told the DPA news agency.
The men were said to be carrying business cards identifying them as working for the German government’s GIZ development agency. But GIZ denied the men were affiliated with the organisation.
The German embassy has no official branch in Peshawar, a city of about 3.5 million people near the border with Afghanistan. But, according to DPA, the Bundesnachrichtendienst intelligence agency has maintained operations there with the knowledge of Pakistani authorities.
It is not clear if the men could face criminal charges or simply be deported from Pakistan.
Relations between Pakistan and the West have been strained for some time over whether Pakistan is doing enough to fight terrorism – and whether some elements in the government may actually be supportive of Islamic extremists.