The government on Sunday said that two officials at the Pakistan High Commission in New Delhi were caught spying and have been asked to leave the country within 24 hours.
This is the first time after four years that such an incident of expelling officials of the Pakistan High Commission has taken place. In October 2016, India and Pakistan had expelled officials from each other’s missions for spying.
“Two officials of the High Commission of Pakistan in New Delhi were apprehended today by Indian law enforcement authorities for indulging in espionage activities,” a statement by the Ministry of External Affairs said.
Indian government sources identified them as Abid Hussain and Muhammad Tahir. “They were caught red handed by police while obtaining documents of Indian security establishment from an Indian and handing him over money and an iPhone. They initially claimed they were Indian nationals. They produced fake Aadhar cards. Later, during interrogation, they confessed that they were officials at the Pakistan High Commission and worked for ISI,” a source said.
“The Government has declared both these officials persona non grata for indulging in activities incompatible with their status as members of a diplomatic mission and asked them to leave the country within 24 hours,” the MEA statement said.
It also said that Pakistan’s Charge de Affaires Syed Haider Shah was issued a demarche in which a “strong protest” was lodged with regard to the activities of these officials “against India’s national security”.
Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry condemned the Indian government’s decision and said, “Two staff members of the Pakistan High Commission in New Delhi were lifted by the Indian authorities today (May 31) on false and unsubstantiated charges. They were, however, released on intervention by the High Commission. We condemn the detention and torture as well as threatening and pressuring of the diplomatic officials to accept false charges.”
“Pakistan strongly rejects the baseless Indian allegations and deplores the Indian action which is in clear violation of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations as well as the norms of diplomatic conduct especially in an already vitiated atmosphere,” it said.
The men were apprehended by Delhi Police’s Special Cell from Central Delhi’s Karol Bagh. “A team led by inspectors Umesh Barthwal and Neeraj Kumar received information that the men were coming to meet an informer to gather classified documents. The police team laid a trap and apprehended them while they were returning. Police are looking for the man who handed them the documents,” said a senior police officer.
An FIR has been registered by the Special Cell police under sections of the Official Secrets Act. “The two were questioned and they named another person, who was detained from Karol Bagh later in the evening. Senior officials were informed and the men were handed over to the embassy,” the officer said.
During questioning, the men are learnt to have disclosed that they were collecting documents from informers about Army movement in Jammu and Kashmir. “Police have found during investigation that one of them, Abid Hussain, had forged an Aadhaar Card with a Geeta Colony address,” the officer said.
The latest incident has the potential to trigger diplomatic retaliation from Pakistan. India and Pakistan downgraded their diplomatic ties in August last year, after Jammu & Kashmir’s special status under Article 370 was revoked. Both countries have recalled their High Commissioners, and Deputy High Commissioners now act as the chief of the mission.
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