Pakistani authorities on Monday detained two officials of the Indian high commission in Islamabad in a case of alleged “hit and run” and released them after over 10 hours following India’s strong demarche and a blunt message to Islamabad that the duo must be freed immediately.
The Pakistani action is seen as a retaliation for the expulsion of two Pakistani High Commission officials by India on charges of espionage two weeks back.
Pakistani media reported that the two Indian staffers were arrested by Pakistani agencies for their alleged involvement in a “hit and run” case, but there was no official word on it from Islamabad.
The non-diplomat staffers were back in the high commission after they were released by Pakistani authorities, government sources said, adding they left the mission in a vehicle at around 8 AM (Pakistan time) but did not reach their destination.
In the morning, the two staffers in Islamabad went missing following which India took up the matter with the Pakistan Foreign Office, sources said.
Within hours of the development, India summoned the Pakistan charge d’affaires Syed Haider Shah to the Ministry of External Affairs in New Delhi and served him a demarche, lodging its strong protest over the reported arrest of the two officials.
In the demarche, it was made clear to Shah that there should be no interrogation or harassment of the Indian officials and the responsibility for their safety and security was squarely on the Pakistani authorities, sources said.
Pakistan was also asked to return the two officials along with the official car of the high commission immediately.
The two staffers are believed to be CISF personnel and working as drivers at the mission.
According to Pakistani media, they were charged with rash driving, hitting a pedestrian and for carrying fake currency.
The two were arrested after a BMW car hit a pedestrian who was walking on the city’s Embassy Road at around 8am, Geo News reported, quoting some eyewitnesses.
Police later discovered that the two persons were from the Indian high commission.
The incident comes two weeks after India expelled two Pakistan High Commission officials here on charges of espionage.
India had declared Abid Hussain and Muhammad Tahir as ‘persona non grata’ after they were found obtaining sensitive documents relating to movement of Indian Army troops from an Indian national, according to authorities here.
Following their expulsion, Pakistani agencies started harassing a number of mission officials in Islamabad including charged’affaires Gaurav Ahluwalia.
Ahluwalia’s car was aggressively tailed by Pakistani agencies on at least two occasions following which India lodged a strong protest with the Pakistan Foreign Office.
After the expulsion of the two Pakistani officials, it was expected that Pakistan would also resort to a tit-for-tat response, going by similar episodes in the past.
The expulsion of the two Pakistani officials by India and subsequent harassment of Indian High Commission staffers in Islamabad by Pakistani agencies came in the midst of frayed ties between the two countries over reorganisation of the status of Jammu and Kashmir by the Indian government.
Pakistan had downgraded diplomatic ties by expelling the Indian High Commissioner in Islamabad following India’s decision to withdraw special status of Jammu and Kashmir in August last year.