ISLAMABAD - Pakistan yesterday ruled out swapping convicted Indian spy Kulbushan Jadhav for any Pakistani prisoner in India.

Foreign Office spokesperson Dr Mohammad Faisal said that reports about swapping Lt-Colonel Habib Zahir (retd) with convicted Indian spy Kulbushan Jadhav were only speculations.

Dr Faisal said Habib Zahir was a retired Pakistani officer who went missing in Nepal, where he had gone for a job interview in April 2017.

Pakistan, he said, also repeatedly requested the Government of India to assist in locating him. “However, no positive response has been received from the Indian side. His family is very distressed and also approached the UN Working Group on Enforced Involuntary Disappearances in Geneva for assistance in locating him. His disappearance has also been reported in media, including outside Pakistan,” he added.

Pakistan, he said, maintains that the involvement of hostile agencies cannot be ruled out. “The government continues to make all-out efforts to locate him and shall not rest until he is home,” he mentioned.

India never assisted to locate Col Habib Zahir

This month, Pakistan had provided consular access to Jadhav under the International Court of Justice directions. However, Islamabad made it clear there would be no second consular access to the Indian Naval officer sentenced to death in Pakistan.

On September 2, India’s Deputy High Commissioner to Pakistan Gaurav Ahluwalia met Jadhav in the presence of Pakistani officials. It was a recorded meeting. Ahluwalia claimed “Jadhav appeared to be under extreme pressure.”

Jadhav was sentenced to death by a Pakistani military court in 2017 and was accused of espionage and terrorism. Pakistan said he was arrested from the restive Balochistan province, where he was working as a spy.

A month after the sentencing, India took Pakistan to the ICJ, questioning the trial. India claims Jadhav was kidnapped from Iranian port of Chabahar, where he was running a business.

Dr Faisal said according to Habib Zahir’s 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 Kathmandu, Nepal for which he was sent air-ticket for Lahore-Oman-Kathmandu by Oman Airlines for an interview on 6 April, 2017.

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 on 6 April 2017, he messaged his wife from his cellphone intimating that he had landed safely at Lumbini - a municipality five kilometres from the Indian border - after which his mobile appeared switched off and his family lost contact with him.

“Investigations revealed that the UK cell number of Mr Mark was fake and actually is 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 has not been any progress in the matter so far,” the spokesperson said.

Faisal said in view of his disappearance from Lumbini - which is five kilometres from the Indian border and the involvement of Indian nationals who reportedly received him at Lumbini, made his hotel reservations and booked his tickets - Pakistan also repeatedly requested India to assist in locating him.

“However, no positive response has been received from the Indian side,” the spokesperson said.