New Delhi: Two Pakistan High Commission officials have been caught on espionage charges and are now being expelled from India, after they were trying to obtain top security documents related to Indian security establishment, ThePrint has learnt.
Abid Hussain and Muhammad Tahir, the officials who were posted in the visa section of the High Commission, were caught red-handed by police Sunday while they were obtaining documents of Indian security establishment from an Indian and handing him over money and an iPhone, said sources in the Ministry of External Affairs.
The Pakistani officials initially claimed they were Indian nationals, and even had fake Aadhaar cards. They confessed during interrogation that they were officials at Pakistan High Commission and worked for the country’s intelligence agency Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), the sources said.
Both Hussain and Tahir are expected to leave India Monday. They came to India in 2019 and 2016, respectively.
According to sources in the Delhi Police, Hussain (42) from Shekhpura and Tahir (44) from Islamabad were apprehended during a joint operation in which Military Intelligence was also involved.
After initial detention by the police, they were handed over to the MEA, the sources said.
This is not the first time that Pakistan High Commission officials have been caught on espionage charges. In 2018, a staffer posted at the High Commission here was asked to leave India as he was caught with sensitive defence documents.
Similarly, in 2016 another Pakistan High Commission staffer was asked to leave the country, in a case of collection of documents on defence and maps of borders areas. Three Indian citizens were also involved.
On Sunday, the MEA said in a statement Pakistan’s Charge de Affaires was issued a demarche in which a “strong protest was lodged with regard to the activities of these officials of the High Commission of Pakistan against India’s national security”.
Pakistan says charges ‘false and unsubstantiated’
In a statement issued by Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Islamabad said the charges levied against Hussain and Tahir were “false and unsubstantiated”.
“Pakistan strongly rejects the baseless Indian allegations and deplores the Indian action which is in clear violation of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations as well as the norms of diplomatic conduct especially in an already vitiated atmosphere,” the statement said.
Pakistan said while both the staffers were released, it condemned the “detention and torture as well as threatening and pressuring of the diplomatic officials to accept false charges”.
Islamabad even blamed the Indian media and accused it of being part of the “persistent anti-Pakistan propaganda”.
“The High Commission for Pakistan in New Delhi has always worked within the parameters of international law and diplomatic norms. The Indian action is clearly aimed at shrinking diplomatic space for the working of Pakistan High Commission,” it said.
The India-Pakistan diplomatic ties are at an all-time low with Islamabad downgrading relations after New Delhi scrapped Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir in August 2019, stripping the erstwhile state of its special status and bifurcated it into two union territories of J&K and Ladakh.