Pakistan is considering pulling out from India four of its officials posted in the High Commission in New Delhi, days after Indian authorities declared one diplomat persona non grata. “This is under consideration. A final decision would be taken shortly,” a source at the Foreign Office told Pakistani paper Dawn on Monday.
The names of the four officials – Commercial Counsellor Syed Furrukh Habib and First Secretaries Khadim Hussain, Mudassir Cheema and Shahid Iqbal – were made public after Indian officials released to media a recorded statement of a High Commission staffer Mehmood Akhtar, who was expelled from India after being declared persona non grata.
Akhtar told Dawn news that he had given the statement under duress. “They took me to a police station after detaining me where I was forced to read out a written statement provided by them in which the names of the four officers were given and was told to state that they belonged to Pakistan’s intelligence services,” the former High Commission official, who returned to Islamabad last week, said.
Akhtar narrated how he was “manhandled and picked” from outside a zoo while on his way back from Nizamuddin shrine and taken to a Delhi police station, where he was coerced into recording a statement before being expelled from the country.
The incident has jeopardised the security of the officers and their families, besides restricting the normal diplomatic functioning of the high commission. Pakistan and India have in the past expelled each other’s diplomats and officials due to their tense relationship, but it is one of those rare occasions where one of the countries took the extreme step of revealing the identities of officers. Pakistani officials believe that India did this on purpose to heighten the tensions.
“We consider it as a serious breach of diplomatic norms. The Indian move has complicated the already tense situation and threatened the lives of our diplomatic staff,” a Pakistani official said, adding it was a “deliberate and provocative action”.