ISLAMABAD: Pakistan has not ruled out the possibility of involvement of “hostile agencies” behind the disappearance of a retired Lieutenant Colonel, who went missing in Nepal in April 2017.
Though, the foreign office did not name any country, the mention of “hostile agencies” was a reference to the Indian secret services.
This is the first time the foreign office has issued a detailed statement on retired Lt Col Habib Zahir whose whereabouts have been unknown since he had gone to Nepal in April 2017 for a job interview.
The foreign office statement providing rare insight how the retired army officer ended up in Nepal came in response to reports in the Indian media claiming that Col Habib was in the Indian custody and he could be swapped with Commander Kulbhushan Jadhav.
Responding to a media query, the foreign office spokesperson stated that Habib Zahir was a retired Pakistani officer who went missing in Nepal, where he had gone for a job interview in April 2017.
The spokesperson added that according to Zahir’s family, he had posted his resume on LinkedIn and UN website for 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, Nepal for which he was sent air ticket for Lahore-Oman-Kathmandu by Oman Airlines for an interview on April 6, 2017.
After landing in Nepal, which he visited for the first time in his life, he left Kathmandu airport (from where he WhatsApped his pictures and boarding pass to his family) for Lumbini airport by Buddha Air.
At 1300 hours on April 6, 2017, he messaged his wife from his cellphone intimating her 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.
Investigations revealed that Mark had a fake UK cell number, which was generated through the internet/computer. The website that the retired officer was contacted from was found to be operated from India and was subsequently taken down. The Government of Nepal constituted a special team to look into his disappearance but there had not been any progress in the matter so far.
In view of Zahir’s disappearance from Lumbini, which is 5kms 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 has repeatedly requested the Government of India to assist in locating him but no positive response has been received from them.
“His family is very distressed and has 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,” the statement said.
“As stated earlier, Pakistan maintains that the involvement of hostile agencies cannot be ruled out,” the spokesperson pointed out.
“The government continues to make all-out efforts to locate him and shall not rest until he is home,” he added.