Indian High Commission official, Surjeet Singh, who was declared persona non grata by Pakistan in a retaliatory action two days ago, left the country with his family on Saturday, a media report said. Surjeet Singh was declared persona non grata on October 27 and told to leave Pakistan in 48 hours by the Foreign Office, Geo News reported. Singh’s expulsion orders came within hours of India asking that a Pakistani High Commission official leave India for allegedly running a spy ring. Pakistan Foreign Secretary, Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry, had summoned Indian High Commissioner, Gautam Bambawale, in Islamabad on Thursday and declared Surjeet Singh as persona non grata and asked that he leave the country by Saturday.
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The Pakistani Foreign Office in a statement said, “The Foreign Secretary expressed deep concern over the activities of the Indian official that were in violation of the Vienna Convention and the established diplomatic norms.” The action came hours after Indian Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar summoned Pakistan High Commissioner Abdul Basit in New Delhi that day to protest against Mehmood Akhtar, a visa officer at the Pakistan High Commission, who India accused of spying.
Basit was told that Akhtar had been declared persona non grata and should leave India by October 29. Pakistan has denied the espionage charges levelled against Akhtar as “false and unsubstantiated”, and alleged that Indian police “manhandled” him. Akhtar was accused of obtaining Indian defence documents. He was released as he is entitled to diplomatic immunity. India asked him to leave the country in 48 hours.
India said that Akhtar was the “kingpin” of a spying network that was active for 18 months. The Pakistan Foreign Ministry said the Akhtar was detained for three hours on “false and unsubstantiated” charges of espionage before he was returned to the mission. Pakistan also noted that Akhtar’s detention violated the Vienna Convention. India categorically denied that the accused officer was mistreated.