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Role of foreign intelligence agencies cannot be ruled out: FO

14 April, 2017

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ISLAMABAD: The Foreign Office said on Thursday that the role of foreign intelligence agencies in the disappearance of Lt Col (r) Habib Zahir cannot be ruled out.

The former army officer went missing in Nepal earlier this month. Addressing a weekly press briefing, FO spokesman Nafees Zakaria said Zahir had been trapped in Nepal “after being lured into a job offer”.

He said Pakistani authorities are in touch with the Nepali government to trace the missing ex-army man and Nepal is cooperating in this regard.

Zakaria, however, warned against linking Zahir’s disappearance with the case of Kulbhushan Jadhav, the Indian spy sentenced to death by a Pakistani tribunal earlier this week on charges of espionage and sabotage.

“It is unreasonable on India’s part to link the Jadhav case with Habib Zahir,” he said, reminding that Zahir had retired from the army a long time before Jadhav’s arrest.

Zakaria seemed to be responding to a startling allegation published by an Indian news outlet quoting unnamed Indian security sources, who claimed that Zahir was part of the team that had picked up Jadhav.

“Zahir was at the Indo-Nepal border last week. He was in the team that had trailed Jadhav. There is definitely a connection between the two cases,” The Indian Express quoted an Indian officer as saying on Wednesday.

Zahir, who retired from the army in 2014, went missing on April 6 from Lumbini, a Buddhist pilgrimage site close to the Indian border, where he arrived after somebody by the name of Mark Thompson had contacted him via email and telephone for a job interview in Nepal. It was reported that a probe by the officer’s family and friends showed that the UK telephone number from which he had received the call for the interview was computer generated, while the email domain and its associated website were registered in India. This prompted concerns that the Indian spy agency RAW could have been behind the kidnapping.

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