ISLAMABAD - The government on Wednesday informed the Senate that it had no conclusive proof of India’s involvement in kidnapping of Col (r) Habib from Nepal, so the case could not be taken to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on mere ‘assumptions’.

Frontier Regions Minister Lt-Gen (r) Abdul Qadir Baloch, concluding a debate on an adjournment motion on the kidnapping of Col (r) Habib said Pakistan had so far found no proof that India or any of its intelligence agencies had kidnapped the retired officer of Pakistan army. The government was in the process of finding conclusions in the case, he said.

The Senate chairman directed Adviser to Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz to brief the house today (Thursday) regarding media reports about the kidnapping incident, Qatar crisis and recent happenings in Afghanistan. The chair left it to the adviser whether the briefing should be held in-camera or open for media.

The minister’s claim is contrary to the wide belief in Pakistan that Col (r) Habib was kidnapped by Indian intelligence agency, RAW, to bring Pakistan on the negotiation table for his exchange with Indian spy Kulbhushan Jadhav convicted in Pakistan on the charges of spying and terrorism. A number of media reports also suggest that RAW kidnapped Habib.

Responding to the demand of lawmakers that Pakistan should take this case to ICJ, the minister, who was responding on behalf of the adviser to the prime minister on foreign affairs, said the case could not be taken to ICJ on the basis of assumptions as this was against the international norms. Giving the details, Baloch said the retired officer reached Kathmandu through Oman and the people who received him there were Indian nationals.

However, this could not be ascertained whether these Indians worked for the government of India or not, he said, adding apparently they worked for a tourist firm.

Lt-Col (r) Habib had mysteriously gone missing while visiting Nepal for a job interview offered to him by a firm against a hefty salary. He has been missing since April 6 from there.

“The Foreign Office is making its utmost efforts to trace the missing retired officer and was in contact with the Nepalese government to get the identity of those persons who remained in touch with the officer,” the minister said. “We have also contacted the Indian government in this connection,” he added.

The remarks of the minister provoked the Senate chairman to say if the Foreign Office is exonerating India in this kidnapping case. “I know the minister had only read out the brief given to him by the Foreign Office,” he said.

Upon this, Baloch said he agreed 100 per cent with the lawmakers that India and RAW were involved in this kidnapping and this incident had links with the Kulbhushan Jadhav case. “The only thing I have said is that we didn’t have conclusive proof against India,” he said. He again said that the case could not be taken to ICJ or the UN on assumptions.

The Senate chairman again reiterated his remarks that no information could be withheld, inconclusive or conclusive, from the parliament. “If there is need that some information could not be made public, it could be shared in an in-camera session or in my chamber for members,” he said.

Earlier, taking part in the debate on kidnapping of Col (r) Habib), MQM Senator Ateeq Sheikh, the mover of the motion, said the government would have to see whether the kidnapping case was not meant to pressurise Pakistan to hand over Jadhav to India. PPP Senator Rehman Malik said Pakistan should take this case to ICJ. Sehar Kamran said the retired Pak Army officer was trapped by offering a job and the army should see whether it should maintain track record of its retired officers.

Former Pakistan Ambassador to US Sherry Rehman criticised the foreign policy of the country and said it was on ‘an auto pilot’. She also said Afghan President Ashraf Ghani had blamed Pakistan for all security lapses of its country. Afghanistan is not talking about its own loopholes as70 percent of its areas had been under occupation of Taliban. She said the Indian external affairs minister had said that Pakistan should not take the Kashmir issue to ICJ, but no one from Pakistani side was ready to respond to the statement.

Leader of Opposition Senator Aitzaz Ahsan blamed the government for not properly pursing the cases of its citizens internationally. He gave examples of Dr Uzma and Kulbhushan and said India had done a lot for its citizens. He alleged the government had utilizing all of its forces to make thebjoint investigation team (JIT) and judges controversial.

Separately, the Senate chairman, through his ruling, accepted the request of PML-N Senator Nehal Hashmi to withdraw his resignation. While quoting the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in the House 2012, the ruling said, “Resignation shall become effective after verification by the chairman from the member and the same has been said in a long trail of judgments of the superior courts. While the process of verification was underway, the senator submitted an application asking for withdrawal of his resignation stating it was given ‘under quite unusual circumstances’,” the ruling said. So the resignation stands withdrawn, it concluded.

State Minister for Petroleum and Natural Resources Jam Kamal responded to the call-attention notice moved by Senator Tahir Mashhadi that drew the attention of the government about alleged “embezzlement of Rs 134 billion by national and international gas companies that extracted and sold oil for last 6 years while under the law they could extract and selll oil for two years.” He said these matters were pointed out in audit paras and the issue is now before the Public Accounts Committee (PAC). He said the companies make such extractions under a policy of the government and cannot violate it. The companies were bound to sell extracted gas and oil only to government-owned companies at subsidised rates, he said. The matter is under probe of the PAC and Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), he said.

The chair also directed Finance Minister Ishaq Dar to conclude the budget debate today as the Senate Standing Committee on Finance would present its recommendations on the finance bill on the floor of the house the same day.