Pakistan insinuates India hand in retired Lt Col’s Nepal disappearance

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan on Wednesday raked up the issue of its retired army officer Lt Col Habib Zahir, who had gone “missing” in Nepal in April 2017, alleging that the involvement of “hostile agencies” behind his disappearance could not be ruled out.
A statement issued by Pakistan’s foreign ministry said, “Responding to a media query, regarding Indian media reports/tweets claiming that Lt Col Habib is in Indian custody and speculation about a swap with Commander Jadhav, the spokesperson stated that Lt Col Habib Zahir is a retired Pakistani officer who went missing in Nepal, where he had gone for a job interview in April 2017…Pakistan maintains that involvement of hostile agencies cannot be ruled out.”
It added that the Pakistan government “shall not rest until he is home”.
Pakistan’s sudden claim appears intriguing
Intriguingly, Pakistan suddenly raised the issue of the ‘disapperance’ of retired army officer Lt Col Habib Zahir in a suo motu statement more than two years after he went ‘missing’, and also allude to “media reports” about a “swap” with Kulbhushan Jadhav, the Indian sentenced to death by a Pakistan military court allegedly for terrorism and espionage.
In April 2017, just days after Jadhav was sentenced, the Pakistan foreign ministry had alleged that Habib was trapped in Nepal after being lured into a job offer. The spokesperson had then alleged that he had disappeared from Lumbini near Nepal’s border with India and was suspected to be in Indian custody.
On Wednesday, Pakistan said that it had repeatedly requested the Indian government to locate Habib. “However, no positive response has been received. His family is very distressed and also approached the UN Working Group on Enforced Involuntary Disappearances for assistance in locating him. His disappearance has also been reported in media, including outside Pakistan,” a foreign ministry statement said.
Pakistan claimed that Habib’s family said that he had posted his CV on LinkedIn and to a UN website for a job. “In response, he received a call and email from one Mr Mark, stating that he had been shortlisted for the job of vice-president. He was asked to visit Kathmandu for which he was sent an air ticket for Lahore-Oman-Kathmandu by Oman Airlines for an interview on April 6, 2017,” it said.
Pakistan alleged that a probe revealed that the UK cell number of Mark was fake. “The website that he (Habib) was contacted from was found to be operated from India and was subsequently taken down,” the statement alleged.
It said that after landing in Kathmandu, Habib left for Lumbini airport by Buddha Air. At 1 pm on April 6, 2017, he messaged his wife from his cellphone intimating that he had landed safely at Lumbini, which is 5 km from the Indian border, the statement said, alleging that his family lost contact from him thereafter.
(The story has been source from a syndicated feed and has been published without any editing except for the headlines.)