Home South Asia India Disappearance of Retired Lt. Col Habib Zahir: Links trace back to India

Disappearance of Retired Lt. Col Habib Zahir: Links trace back to India

Addressing the press on the efforts to find retired Lt Col Habib Zahir, the Foreign Office spokesperson said that the involvement of hostile agencies cannot be ruled out. He also said that the website used to contact the missing army officer was traced back to India, and it was taken down immediately

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The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, on Wednesday, said that the PTI-led government is undertaking extensive efforts to locate retired Lt Col Habib Zahir, who has been missing since April 2017. The Foreign Office maintained that the involvement of “hostile agencies” is also being investigated.

Addressing the press on Indian media reports and tweets that the former officer of the Pakistan Army is in Indian custody, and New Delhi plans to swap him with Kulbhushan Jadhav, the FO spokesperson Dr. Mohammad Faisal said that the role of hostile agencies cannot be ignored.

Mr. Zahir was a retired officer of the Pakistan army who went missing in Nepal, after arriving in the country for a job interview in April 2017.

Hostile Agencies Involved

Dr. Mohammad Faisal, official spokesperson of the Foreign Office said, “Pakistan maintains that the involvement of hostile agencies cannot be ruled out.”

A press release issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in this regard stated that according to the family of the missing army officer, Mr. Zahir had posted his CV on LinkedIn and the UN website, looking for a job. Shortly after, he received a call and email from Mr. Mark, stating that he had been shortlisted for the position of Vice President.

Pakistan maintains that the involvement of hostile agencies cannot be ruled out. The government continues to make all-out efforts to locate him and shall not rest until he is home.

MoFA stated that on this pretext, Mr. Zahir was asked to visit Nepal, and was also sent a ticket of the Oman Airlines for his interview, which was scheduled for 6th April, 2017.

The press release stated, “He was asked to visit Kathmandu, Nepal for which he was sent air-ticket for Lahore-Oman-Kathmandu by Oman Airlines for an interview on 6 April 2017. After landing in Nepal, which he visited for the first time in his life, he left Kathmandu airport (from where he had WhatsApped his pictures and boarding pass to his family), for Lumbini airport by Buddha Air.”

The Foreign Office informed that Mr. Zahir had sent his pictures and boarding pass to his family through WhatsApp, which was the last contact he had with his family in Pakistan. The press release added, “At 1300 hours on 6 April 2017, he messaged his wife from his cellphone intimating that he had landed safely at Lumbini (a municipality 5 kilometers from the Indian border) after which his mobile appeared switched off and his family lost contact with him.”

Website Operated in India

MoFA stated that investigations into the contact information of Mr. Mark was “fake” and the website he used to contact Mr. Zahir was operated from India, and later, taken down.

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The press release read, “Investigations revealed that the UK cell number of Mr. Mark was fake and actually is an internet/computer-generated number. The website that he was contacted from was found to be operated from India and was subsequently taken down.”

On request of the Pakistani authorities, the Government of Nepal established a special team to launch an inquiry into the disappearance of retired Lt Col Zahir but there has not been much progress so far. The Foreign Office Spokesperson said that the government of Pakistan has also requested the Government of India to provide assistance in locating Mr. Zahir, who had gone missing in Lumbini, which is located at a 5km distance from the Indian border.

The press release stated, “In view of his disappearance from Lumbini, which is 5 kilometers from the Indian border and the involvement of Indian nationals (who reportedly received him at Lumbini, made his hotel reservations and booked his tickets), Pakistan also repeatedly requested the Government of India to assist in locating him.”

The statement added, “However, no positive response has been received from the Indian side. His family is very distressed and also approached the UN Working Group on Enforced Involuntary Disappearances in Geneva for assistance in locating him. His disappearance has also been reported in media, including outside Pakistan.”

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The Government of Pakistan has approached multiple authorities, including the UN Working Group on Enforced Involuntary Disappearances, to find out Mr. Zahir’s whereabouts. Dr. Faisal reiterated Pakistan’s stance that the authorities will continue making efforts, and will not rest until the retired army officer is back home.

Dr. Faisal said, “Pakistan maintains that the involvement of hostile agencies cannot be ruled out. The government continues to make all-out efforts to locate him and shall not rest until he is home.”

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