As many as six officials in the Pakistani high commission reportedly returned home on Wednesday amid growing tensions between the two countries after a Pakistani staffer was caught spying, sources said.
Though there was no official confirmation on the number of diplomats leaving India, according to sources associated with the diplomatic mission, six officials are in the process of leaving or have already left.
“The decision has been taken after it became impossible for the officials to work in this vitiated atmosphere. Indian government is threatening and blackmailing our diplomats. So in this condition, it is impossible for us to stay in this country and work,” the sources alleged.
According to the sources, those who left include commercial counsellor Syed Furrukh Habib and first secretaries Khadim Hussain, Mudassir Cheema and Shahid Iqbal.
The Pakistani action comes days after India declared Pakistani official Mehmood Akhtar persona non-grata for espionage activities, a status that expelled the diplomat from India, triggering a tit-for-tat action from Islamabad, which also expelled an Indian High Commission official there.
Earlier, media reports emerging from Islamabad said Pakistan may ask at least two officials of the Indian High Commission to leave the country for their alleged involvement in subversive activities.
Akhtar had been arrested by Delhi Police last Wednesday after being caught with documents containing confidential, sensitive information pertaining to India’s defence. During his interrogation by the crime branch, Akhtar allegedly said 16 other staffers at the Pakistan high commission were involved in the spy ring.
The exposure of the espionage attempts adds a new dimension to India-Pakistan’s ongoing acrimony. India has been targeting Pakistan diplomatically after 19 soldiers were killed in a militant attack in September. India blames its neighbour for harbouring the militants who carried out the attacks. It later announced carrying out surgical strikes across the Line of Control, though Pakistan has denied this claim.