India Flags Harassment of Diplomats in Pakistan: Should Pak Worry?
Indian diplomats had witnessed similar harassment through 2017 and early 2018 in Islamabad, Pakistan.
India has issued multiple notes verbales to Pakistan over the last couple of days (7-8 June), raising serious concerns over the harassment and intimidation faced by Indian diplomats in Pakistan. Diplomatic sources in the Indian High Commission in Islamabad have confirmed this development. “We have been taking up regularly with the Pakistan MoFA the issue of the extraordinary rise in the levels of harassment and attempts at intimidation undertaken by the ISI after the events on 31May.”
On 31 May, India had expelled two Pakistan High Commission officials identified as Abid Hussain Amid and Mohd Tahir Khan, after they were caught red-handed for espionage, in a joint operation by the Intelligence Bureau, Delhi Police Special Cell and Military Intelligence of the Indian Army at Karol Bagh in New Delhi. Pakistan had later also recalled Javed, the driver of these ISI operatives, who used to drive them around India’s national capital.
Diplomatic Communication From New Delhi to Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry
The Quint has exclusively accessed diplomatic communication sent from New Delhi on 7 and 8 June, addressed to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Pakistan by the High Commission of India in Islamabad. The two notes verbales present a detailed account of the harassment and intimidation faced by the Indian diplomats, which also includes India’s Chargé d'affaires, Gaurav Ahluwalia.
The diplomatic communication sent to Pakistan on 7 June reads:
“On 6 June 2020, while the Chargé d’affaires was out for a morning walk, he was kept under close watch by three personnel of Pakistani security agencies in a car. Later in the day, when the Chargé d’affaires was commuting to Rana Market for essential purchases, the Pakistani security agencies’ personnel tailed the official vehicle of the High Commission on motor bikes. They followed the Chargé d’affaires even when he was inside the shops, and four of these personnel kept standing right outside while he was making purchases. The security personnel then tailed the Chargé d’affaires to the Super Market in F6 in an aggressive manner and made dangerous manoeuvres at a threateningly close distance. The Chargé d’affaires was kept under close surveillance as he made routine purchases.”
The members of the Pakistan security agencies have maintained similar aggressive surveillance outside the High Commission of India in Islamabad and the residential complex 24x7.
Indian Diplomats Have Also Faced Similar Harassment In Islamabad in 2017 & 2018
“On 7 June 2020, while an officer of the High Commission was commuting to Kohsar market and nearby areas for essential purchases, personnel of Pakistani security agencies tailed the official vehicle of the High Commission on motorbikes. Later, they were joined by more personnel in a car. They followed the officer for the entire duration. In another instance, Pakistani security personnel followed officers of the High Commission while they were commuting inside the Diplomatic Enclave,” the diplomatic communication sent on 8 June reads.
Indian diplomats had witnessed similar harassment through 2017 and early 2018 in Islamabad.
The embarrassing situation was finally brought to an end after a phone call between India's National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and his then Pakistan counterpart Nasser Janjua. The latest diplomatic standoff doesn’t seem to be ending anytime soon.
India has now lodged a protest over what it says are “pre-planned and orchestrated incidents of harassment, intimidation, intrusive surveillance and attempted threats to physically harm the High Commission’s officials”.
New Delhi has called this “hostile and belligerent behaviour” a “clear violation of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations of 1961 as also of the Code of Conduct for treatment of Diplomatic/Consular personnel in India and Pakistan signed in 1992”.
Indian Civil Society Expresses Concerns Over Targeting Of Religious & Ethnic Minorities in Pakistan
Meanwhile, India on 9 June issued another strong démarche to the Pakistani High Commission in New Delhi on the systematic and targeted demolition of houses belonging to the minority Hindu community in Chak 52/DB, Yazman, Punjab of Pakistan. “Members of civil society in India have expressed serious concerns, and are anguish at the targeted and continued persecution of religious and ethnic minorities in Pakistan. They have also strongly condemned the incident wherein State authorities targeted the minority Hindu community despite the occupants producing valid documents of ownership and legal relief granted against demolition,” an official of the Ministry of External Affairs told The Quint.
The demolition had taken place on the watch of Tariq Bashir Cheema, Housing Minister of the Imran Khan-led government in Pakistan.
An independent fact-finding mission of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) had also found local authorities guilty of demolishing the houses of the Hindu minority community and asked to take swift action against the perpetrators who claim to enjoy protection. The Commission had also asked the Punjab Government in Pakistan to compensate the Hindu victims who now had no shelter after their homes were razed to the ground.
Global Censure of Pakistan’s ‘Persecution of Minorities’ On its Soil
Pakistan, in recent months, has come under severe criticism globally for the persecution of minorities on its soil with State sanction. The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), earlier in April this year, had teared into Pakistan for denial of food to its minorities amid the COVID-19 pandemic, which it called ‘reprehensible’. “Food aid must not be denied because of one’s faith. We urge the Pakistani government to ensure that food aid, from distributing organisations, is shared equally with Hindus, Christians and other religious minorities,” the statement had read.
The USCIRF had also condemned Pakistan in May 2020 for the arrest of 55-year old Ahmadiyya woman Ramzan Bibi for blasphemy.
She had allegedly made ‘blasphemous remarks’ over the “the return of her charitable donation to a local mosque.”
(Aditya Raj Kaul has a decade long experience in covering conflict, internal security and foreign policy for various national media outlets. He tweets at @AdityaRajKaul.)
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