While Indian spy Kulbhushan Sudhir Jadhav remains in Pakistan’s custody over terror charges, media reports have claimed that a former Pakistan army officer is in Indian custody, raising speculation about a possible prisoner swap.
“The government is making all-out efforts to locate Lt Col (r) Habib Zahir,” Foreign Office spokesperson Dr Mohammad Faisal said while taking exception to Indian media reports and denying the claims.
“Pakistan maintains that the involvement of hostile agencies cannot be ruled out,” he was quoted as saying by Dawn.
Sharing the details of the episode, Dr Faisal said that 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 his family, he had posted his CV on LinkedIn and the United Nations (UN) website for a job. “In response, he received a call and email from one Mark stating that he had been shortlisted for the job of vice president.”
He was asked to visit Nepal and he was sent an Oman Airlines ticket 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 had WhatsApped his pictures and boarding pass to his family), for Lumbini airport by Buddha Air.
At 1300 hours, he messaged his wife from his mobile phone intimating that he had landed safely at Lumbini (a municipality 5 kilometres from the Indian border) after which his mobile appeared switched off and his family lost all contact with him.
Investigations revealed that Mark’s United Kingdom (UK) cell number was fake and was actually an internet/computer-generated number. The website that he 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 was no progress in the matter so far.
In view of his disappearance from Lumbini 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.
However, no positive response had been received from the Indian side.