Pakistan detains Indian mission officials
Pakistani authorities on Monday detained two junior staff members of the Indian mission in Islamabad and held them for almost 12 hours, releasing them after the Pakistani charge d’affaires in New Delhi was summoned to the foreign ministry for lodging a strong protest.
The two non-diplomatic staff members, who were in an official car, were initially reported missing at 8 am Pakistan time while out on official duty, people familiar with developments said on condition of anonymity. They were handed over to two other officials of the high commission at the Secretariat police station, located a short distance from the diplomatic enclave, about 12 hours later.
The people said the two staff members had signs of injuries and would undergo a medical examination. The incident was widely seen in New Delhi as retaliation for the Indian government’s decision to expel two officials of the Pakistan high commission who were apprehended on charges of spying on May 31.
Almost seven hours after the two staff members were reported missing, reports in the Pakistani media claimed they had been arrested after their car allegedly hit a pedestrian near the diplomatic enclave. The Express Tribune newspaper’s website reported the two men allegedly tried to flee and the car was stopped by a large group of bystanders who handed them over to police.
A first information report (FIR) by Islamabad Police, accessed by HT, said the two men were charged under provisions of the Code of Criminal Procedure related to rash driving, injuring a person through rash driving and possession of fake currency. The FIR further claimed fake Pakistani currency with a face value of Rs 10,000 was found in the car.
These allegations were dismissed by the people cited above, who described them as false and baseless.
Following the media reports, Pakistan’s charge d’affaires Syed Haider Shah was summoned to the external affairs ministry and served a demarche or formal diplomatic representation on the arrest of the two staff members. Shah was told there should be “no interrogation or harassment” of the Indians and that the responsibility for the safety and security of the personnel “lay squarely with the Pakistani authorities”, one of the people cited above said.
“The Pakistan side was asked to return the two officials along with the official car to the high commission immediately,” the person added.
There was no word from Pakistan’s Foreign Office regarding the incident.
On May 31, India expelled two officials of the Pakistan high commission in New Delhi after they were detained by security agencies while trying to obtain classified materials on Indian security installations. Both men were declared “persona non grata for indulging in activities incompatible with their status as members of a diplomatic mission” and asked to India within 24 hours.
Pakistan had condemned the Indian government’s action and said the officials were detained on “false and unsubstantiated charges”.
Subsequently, India had also complained about the harassment of its diplomats in Islamabad. These developments have come at a time when ties between India and Pakistan are at an all-time low.