Pakistan has written to the Indian High Commission in Islamabad seeking information about Lt Colonel Mohammad Habib Zahir, a retired officer of the Pakistan Army who went missing in Nepal last month. There has been no Indian response to the request yet.
Meanwhile, more details have emerged about Zahir, who Pakistani security officials believe was abducted by the Research and Analysis Wing with a view to facilitate an exchange with Kulbhushan Jadhav, a retired Indian naval officer who is in Pakistani custody. Zahir had sought a no-objection certificate (NOC) from the Pakistan Army for foreign travel, giving the reason for his travel as ‘Umrah’.
Umrah is a pilgrimage to Mecca that can be undertaken at any time of the year. Sources told The Indian Express that NOC for Umrah is given quickly by Pakistan Army while a “civil” NOC — for foreign travel by retired military personnel for civil employment purposes — is a cumbersome process. Zahir, who had got a job offer from the UK with a salary of $8,000 a month, should have applied for a “civil” NOC.
Pakistani sources said he was interviewed telephonically by one Mark Thompson from the UK, and given a ticket to fly to Oman, from where he was directed to go to Nepal. The retired officer was last seen on April 6. Pakistan Army, sources said, have already met Zahir’s family and told them that his action of furnishing a false reason for travel makes him liable for disciplinary action under military law. Although his family had been told that they could not expect any “out of the way” help, Pakistan army has now decided to officially approach India about him. Sources said the news of the missing Lt Colonel from Nepal precipitated the announcement of death sentence to Jadhav.