The Foreign Office said on Thursday that the role of foreign intelligence agencies cannot be ruled out in the disappearance of retired Lt Col Habib Zahir, a former Pakistan Army officer who mysteriously went missing in Nepal earlier this month.
Addressing a weekly press briefing in Islamabad, FO spokesman Nafees Zakaria said Zahir had been trapped in Nepal "after being lured into a job offer".
He said Pakistani authorities are in touch with the Nepali government to trace the missing ex-army man and Nepal is cooperating in this regard.
Zakaria, however, warned against linking Zahir's disappearance with the case of Kulbhushan Jadhav, the Indian spy sentenced to death by a Pakistani tribunal earlier this week on charges of espionage and sabotage earlier this month.
"It is unreasonable on India's part to link the Jadhav case with Habib Zahir," he said, reminding that Zahir had retired from the army a long time before Jadhav's arrest.
Zakaria seemed to be responding to a startling allegation published by an Indian news outlet quoting unnamed Indian security sources, who claimed that Zahir was part of the team that had picked up convicted spy Kulbhushan Jadhav.
“Zahir was at the Indo-Nepal border last week. He was in the team that had trailed Jadhav. There is definitely a connection between the two cases,” The Indian Express quoted an Indian officer as saying on Wednesday.
Col Zahir, who retired from the army in 2014, went missing on April 6 from Lumbini, a Buddhist pilgrimage site close to the Indian border, where he arrived after somebody by the name of Mark Thompson had contacted him via email and telephone for a job interview in Nepal.
It was reported that a probe by the officer’s family and friends showed that the UK telephone number from which he had received the call for the interview was computer generated, while the email domain and its associated website were registered in India. This prompted concerns that the Indian spy agency RAW could have been behind the kidnapping.
He said clear evidence exists of Indian involvement in Pakistan's internal affairs and India's attempts to spread terrorism in a sovereign country.
"India has been caught red-handed interfering in Pakistan," Zakaria said.
He claimed that India has been involved in interfering in Pakistani affairs in the past as well.
"Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his visit to Bangladesh [also] confessed to India's involvement in [then] East Pakistan in 1971," he said.
KARACHI: Somali pirates have hijacked a Pakistani boat, US media reported on Tuesday.
It said the hijacking came hours after the pirates hijacked an Indian vessel along the coast of Somalia near a village named El Hur.
Abdillahi Ahmed Ali, mayor of Somali town Hobyo, confirmed the incident while talking to Voice of America, but expressed unawareness about the number of crew members on the Pakistani vessel called Salama 1.
Earlier the pirates hijacked the Indian vessel MSV Al Kausar.
“Al Kausar having 11 crew members is now anchored off the nearby village of El Hur. The Salama 1 was reportedly headed to the same area with an unknown number of crew,” Mr Ali said.
Published in Dawn, April 5th, 2017
ISLAMABAD: The residents of Islamabad and Rawalpindi were inconvenienced by the unannounced blackout of mobile phone services in the name of security and Parade Day rehearsals on Sunday.
While internet services were not shut, phone calls could not be made as mobile signals remained down from 6am till noon.
The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) did not share details about the suspension of services.
A PTA official requesting anonymity explained that it was the same exercise as last year and the year before that.
“Security agencies do not announce suspension of services to maintain security. Announcing it defeats the purpose of securing the parade ground where personnel of joint armed forces rehearse for the military parade on March 23,” he said.
According to the official, security concerns were higher this year given the series of attacks across the country last month.
“Phone services are expected to be suspended again during the final rehearsals and certainly on March 23,” he said.
While residents said they were expecting it, they were nonetheless thankful that phone services were not suspended every day two weeks prior to the Parade Day celebrations like it used to be a few years ago.
Hafeezuddin, however, was annoyed. “Road blockades and jammed phones are nuisances and we do not want it even if it’s once a year. People cannot make calls if there are health emergencies or children have exams. Such events should be held outside cities where people are not inconvenienced,” said the retired government servant. Imran Khalid, a businessman, said: “Traffic diversions were already a problem and no phone signals made the matters worse.”
It was not just PTA that declined to share information even cellular mobile operators were not as forthcoming.
According to an official of Mobilink, as always the notice to suspend services originated from the PTA on the last minute and its details were confidential.
An official of Ufone said he was not aware of what he called a ‘blanket’ outage across Islamabad with the spillover effects in Rawalpindi.
“The government can direct operators to suspend both mobile signals as well as 3G and 4G services for security reasons up to March 23,” he said.
Published in Dawn, March 20th, 2017
Weeks after former president Pervez Musharraf launched his career on mainstream media, the Bol Network announced that former president Asif Ali Zardari will also be appearing on a weekly show as a political analyst.
According to a promotional video shared by Bol Network on twitter, the new show is called Pakistan Khappay with President Asif Ali Zardari and will be aired every Sunday at 9:30pm.
In the first episode of the show that was aired on March 19, Zardari appeared live from Bilawal House in Karachi, responding to questions posed by the anchor.
The former president spoke of the challenges Pakistan is facing in the international arena and regretted that the government had failed to appoint a foreign minister.
"If the government does not have a foreign minister, then, I believe, there is no concern for Pakistan's position on the the global stage and the numerous challenges the country is facing," Zardari said.
During the episode the former president also spoke about Pak-US relations and said that "if someone takes the responsibility to hold dialogue with [America]," the relations can be improved.
When questioned about the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, Zardari said that Prime Minister Nawaz Shairf has not been able to understand the project, adding that "it is not a project of building roads".
Earlier, during the first episode of his show with Bol TV, 'Sab Se Pehle Pakistan with President Musharraf,' which was aired on Feb 26, Musharraf had responded to the anchor's questions from Dubai — where he is currently living in self-exile.
Musharraf's show airs on Sundays at 8pm.
ISLAMABAD / LAHORE: Marking the revival of bilateral engagement at the institutional level after two years, a 10-member Indian delegation led by Indian Indus Water Commissioner P.P. Saxena arrived on Sunday for two-day talks on the designs, disputed by Pakistan, of three controversial water projects being built on river Chenab.
The water experts of the two sides at the level of Permanent Indus Commission last met in May 2015 in New Delhi and could not hold mandatory annual meetings since then despite repeated requests by Islamabad.
The two sides would not discuss the controversial Kishanganga and Ratle hydropower projects on which Pakistan is seeking international court of arbitration (ICA) through the World Bank, a senior official told Dawn. He explained that the World Bank was at the advanced stage of appointing an ICA, hence not on the bilateral agenda.
The teams led by Mr Saxena and Pakistan’s Indus Water Commissioner Mirza Asif Beg would open formal talks on Monday before leaving for Lahore in the evening where the talks would conclude on Tuesday. The visiting delegation would leave for New Delhi the same day.
The officials said that Pakistan had raised objections to the designs of three projects on Chenab it considered being built by India in violation of the 1960 Indus Waters Treaty. These include Pakul Dal of 1,000MW, Miyar of 120MW and Lower Kalnai of 48MW.
The two sides will exchange data on river flows and try to finalise the schedule of future meetings and tours of inspections by Pakistani water engineering experts to the various rivers and project sides across the Line of Control.
An official said that Pakistan’s objections to the three projects led the Indian side to agree on putting them on the agenda of the meeting. He said Pakul Dal, a mega project with a proposed generation capacity of 1,000MW, would be built on Chenab and would be able to store nearly one million acres feet of water. The project design envisaged its filling every monsoon season between mid-June and end-August.
Pakistan would seek details of the project and engineering designs and raise specific questions and objections and expect the visiting delegation to satisfy the hosts with envisaged changes.
Officials said the two sides had previously scheduled their annual meeting in September last year with systematic delays caused by New Delhi when Prime Minister Modi declared unilateral suspension of talks and announced speeding up hydropower projects on Pakistani rivers.
An official said India was entitled to store about 3.6m acres feet on Pakistani rivers and almost one-fourth of that quantity could be exploited through Pakul Dal.
In addition, Pakistan has also objected to the design of the 120MW Miyar hydropower project on Miyar Nullah — a major tributary of Chenab on its right bank. The project involves a barrage, head race tunnel, surge shaft, penstocks and tail race channel.
The Miyar project has the capacity to discharge about 61.35 cusecs of water. Islamabad’s objections on the project relate to the barrage height, intake height, head and tail race channels and discharge levels.
Likewise, the 48MW Lower Kalnai project would also be located on river Chenab and impact Pakistan’s water rights, an official said.
Under the provisions of the Indus Waters Treaty 1960, waters of the eastern rivers — Sutlej, Beas and Ravi — had been allocated to India and the western rivers — Indus, Jhelum and Chenab — to Pakistan, except for certain non-consumptive uses for India.
Earlier, the Indian delegation arrived in Lahore through Wagah. It was received by officials of the Indian High Commission in Islamabad and Pakistan Indus water commission office.
Published in Dawn, March 20th, 2017
Chief of Army Staff Qamar Javed Bajwa on Tuesday assured Qatar that Pakistan will cooperate with country on cyber security, defence production and ease of travel, said the Inter-Services Public Relations in a statement.
The army chief, who is on an official visit to Qatar, thanked Prime Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Nasser bin Khalifa Al Thani of Qatar for appreciating Pakistan Army's role in the ongoing fight against terrorism and assured him of all possible cooperation in "desired fields".
Qatar's premier also hailed the army's contributions towards establishing regional peace and lauded it for its professionalism. He showed interest for joint training and field exercises, expressing desire to learn from Pakistan Army's expertise in the security domain.
He said that people of Qatar greatly value the people of Pakistan and trust their time-tested commitment for working in Qatar and sought assistance for the upcoming Football World Cup in Qatar, including provision of manpower.
General Bajwa also visited Ahmed Bin Mohamed Military College where a Pakistani tri-services contingent of 166 members is imparting training. He also toured the Qatar Emiri Guard Headquarters and met Major General Hazza Bin khalid Al Shahwani.
PESHAWAR: Pakistan Army has moved heavy artillery towards the Pak-Afghan border in Chaman and Torkham districts, security officials said on Monday.
The move came just two days after the military decimated camps of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan’s (TTP) Jamaatul Ahrar (JA) faction on the Torkham border opposite Mohmand and Khyber tribal regions. The group, which claims to be behind the recent wave of terrorist attacks, has found safe haven in Afghanistan, according to the Pakistani security establishment.
Security sources said their forces have resolved to restrict illegal border movement and any attempt to breach border security will be responded to with full force. Security forces have stepped up patrolling in the areas along the Afghan border, while security has been put on high alert in North and South Waziristan agencies.
The stringent border checks were implemented after a week of deadly attacks by terrorists left dozens of people dead and injured in different cities of Pakistan, prompting a pledge of ‘revenge — immediate revenge’ from Army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa. Security forces have also indefinitely closed the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan.