Besides Pakistan High Commission staffer Mehmood Akhtar, more spies could be soon arrested.
New Delhi: India stated on Thursday that Pakistan High Commission staffer Mehmood Akhtar “persona non-grata”, and asked him to leave the country with his family in 2 days, a day after he and 2 Indian co-conspirators were caught in Delhi on spying charges.
He was arrested for questioning but released because he enjoys embassy immunity. Foreign secretary S. Jaishankar summoned Pakistan high commissioner Abdul Basit, intimated him of what had happened and “strongly conveyed that no High Commission member can entertain in such activities.
Pakistan denied the charges and condemned the Indian action, blaming India of trying to “shrink diplomatic space for the working of the Pakistan High Commission”.
Pakistan suspected that the employee had been “lifted and manhandled”. But India swiftly clarified that he had been “treated with extreme courtesy”, adding that the Vienna Convention (for the protection of representatives) had been fully observed too.
Pointing out that Akhtar “was caught red-handed”, New Delhi stated, “We are happy that we nipped the ISI spy ring in the bud.” Akhtar had been working as subordinate to Pakistan’s counsellor (Trade) Farukh Habib in the High Commission. He and the 2 Indian assistants were picked up from the Delhi Zoo.
With assumption being rife that more Pakistan High Commission employees could be tangled in the espionage ring, sources stated investigations were continuing and that there could be more arrests.
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When asked why Akhtar was released, sources in the ministry of external affairs (MEA) stated he may not be a legate in the “traditional sense” and may not even have a diplomatic passport but stated he was allowed to go as he “enjoyed some level of diplomatic immunity” on account of being a staffer at the high commission.
Sources in the Delhi police expressed to news agencies that they did not rule out the possible involvement of some BSF personnel in the racket, as they believe Akhtar and his assistants could not have got hold of security deployment details unless someone in the border force was leaking them.
When caught, Akhtar first identified himself as Mehmood Rajput of Chandni Chowk, but the Aadhaar card he provided turned out to be fake. He disclosed that he had joined the Baloch regiment of the Pakistan Army in 1997 and came on delegation to the ISI in 2013. He was posted in September 2013 to the Pakistan High Commission.
He recruited Indians for espionage and sent information to Pakistan. The section had been active for 18 months, and came on police radar 6 months ago. Previous year, the police busted an ISI spy ring in the Pakistan High Commission and arrested 5 persons.