Pakistan has written to the Indian High Commission in Islamabad seeking information on Lt Colonel Mohammad Habib Zahir, a retired officer of the Pakistan Army who went missing from Nepal on April 6. While India has not made an official statement in response, The Times of India quoted unidentified Indian officials as saying that they had no knowledge about Zahir.
Pakistan had claimed on April 18 that Zahir had been abducted by India’s Research and Analysis Wing to secure the release of the Indian nation it claims is a spy, Kulbhushan Jadhav. Jadhav has been given a death sentence by a military court in Pakistan.
A report by The Indian Express on Thursday had said that Zahir had in fact sought a no-objection certificate from the Pakistan Army, ostensibly for the purpose of “Umrah” – a pilgrimage to Mecca. The report quotes Pakistani officials as saying that while an NOC for Umrah is given quickly, a civil NOC takes time to be approved. Zahir, who had got a job offer in Nepal, should have applied for a civil NOC, they said.
Zahir was interviewed on the phone by one Mark Thompson from the UK, and given a ticket to fly to Oman, from where he flew to Nepal. He was last seen in that country on April 6.
Nepal embassy officials told the The Times of India that investigations into Zahir’s disappearance are going on. The Pakistan Army has meanwhile met Zahir’s family and told them that by furnishing a false reason for travel, he could face disciplinary action under military law, said The Indian Express report.
Subsequently, the Pakistan Army decided to approach India about Zahir. The announcement of the death penalty to Kulbhushan Jadhav also came about as a result of the Lt Colonel’s disappearance from Nepal.
India and Pakistan are currently engaged in a legal battle at the International Court of Justice over the death sentence to Jadhav. The ICJ had stayed Jadhav’s execution on May 18, and asked Pakistan to ensure that the former Indian Naval officer was not hanged until the court delivers its final judgement.