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Pakistan recalls 6 from its Delhi mission, India likely to pull out 8 from Islamabad

Thursday, Nov 3, 2016,11:48 IST By metrovaartha A A A

New Delhi | Pakistan on Wednesday pulled out six of its officials in the wake of a spy scandal involving staffers of its High Commission here even as India was mulling withdrawal of eight of its diplomats from Islamabad as their security has been “completely compromised”.

The six Pakistani officials, including four senior diplomats, named for spying for a High Commission staffer, who was arrested and expelled last week for espionage, left India for home as bilateral ties continued to slide.

India was also planning to “eventually” withdraw eight of its diplomats from Pakistan after their names and photographs were published and broadcast in the media there, sources in the External Affairs Ministry said.

Pakistan pulled out the six officials days after a mission staffer Mehmood Akhtar was expelled by India over alleged espionage.

Though there was no official announcement here about Pakistan withdrawing its diplomats, according to Pakistani sources, six mission officials have returned home.

The officials, who left India, included commercial counsellor Syed Furrukh Habib and first secretaries Khadim Hussain, Mudassir Cheema and Shahid Iqbal whose names were referred to by Akhtar during his interrogation in connection with the spying scandal, according to sources in the Pakistan High Commission.

“The decision has been taken after it became impossible for the officials to work in this vitiated atmosphere.

“Indian government is threatening and blackmailing our diplomats. So, in this condition, it is impossible for us to stay in this country and work,” sources alleged.

The development comes days after India declared Pakistani official Akhtar persona non-grata for espionage activities, triggering a tit for tat action by Islamabad, which also expelled an Indian High Commission official posted there.

Earlier, media reports emerging from Islamabad said Pakistan may ask at least two officials of the Indian High Commission to leave the country for their alleged involvement in subversive activities.

The two officials were identified and their photographs were being flashed by different TV news channels in Pakistan.

Geo TV reported that commercial counsellor Rajesh Agnihotri and press counsellor Balbir Singh may be expelled.

Indian officials said because of such media reports the security of these diplomats has been “hugely compromised”.

Citing sources, the channel claimed that Agnihotri was directly linked with RAW, while Singh was working for Intelligence Bureau (IB). The duo, it was alleged, were using their positions in Pakistan as cover to hide their real identities.

It claimed Singh was also running a network of militants in Pakistan and expelled High Commission official Surjeet Singh was also part of his network.

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