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Efforts on to locate missing ex-army officer: FO

Efforts on to locate missing ex-army officer: FO

ISLAMABAD: The Foreign Office on Wednesday said the government was making all-out efforts to locate retired Lt Col Habib Zahir.

Commenting on Indian media reports and tweets that the former Pakistan army officer was in Indian custody and speculation about his swap with Kulbhushan Jadhav, FO spokesperson Dr Mohammad Faisal said: “Pakistan maintains that the involvement of hostile agencies cannot be ruled out.”

He said that Mr Zahir was a retired Pakistani officer who went missing in Nepal, where he had gone for a job interview in April 2017.

The spokesperson said that according to his family, he had posted his CV on LinkedIn and UN website for a 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 Nepal and he was sent an Oman Airlines ticket for an interview on April 6, 2017.

Involvement of hostile agencies in disappearance of Lt Col Habib Zahir not ruled out

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 the UK cell number of Mr Mark 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.

Published in Dawn, September 19th, 2019

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