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Pakistani embassy staff held by Afghan spies for three hours

Updated May 18, 2017

ISLAMABAD: Two Pakistani staffers at the Pakistan Embassy in Kabul were detained for hours by the National Directorate of Security (NDS), the premier intelligence agency of Afghanistan, under unclear circumstances.

The incident served another blow to the already fraught ties between the two countries.

Read more: Experts warn against standstill in Pak-Afghan ties

The two men were in a stationery shop at a market when they were picked up by the NDS sleuths and taken to one of their detention centres along with the embassy’s official vehicle, a source said.

The staffers were identified as Hassan Khanzada, visa assistant at the embassy, and Syed Munir Shah, staff driver. Mr Khanzada was manhandled during the detention, the source said.


Afghanistan’s official summoned by FO, told to ensure diplomatic safety


The embassy approached the Afghan foreign ministry and sought immediate release of the two staffers. The Afghan foreign ministry, reportedly after a bit of dilly-dallying, conceded that the two had been taken into custody by the NDS.

Mr Khanzada and Mr Shah were finally released after three hours.

The incident happened amid latest efforts by the US-led coalition in Afghanistan to mend fences between Pakistan and Afghanistan in the aftermath of the recent border incident in which about a dozen lives were lost. An Afghan army delegation led by their Director General Military Operations last week visited GHQ where it was agreed during bilateral talks that “an environment of mutual respect, trust, cordiality and cooperation” would be fostered.

On Wednesday, Afghan deputy head of mission Zardasht Shams was summoned to the Foreign Office over the detention of the embassy staffers.

“The Afghan deputy head of mission was summoned to the Foreign Office today to lodge Pakistan’s strong protest over the incident in which two diplomatic officials in Kabul were detained, reportedly by Afghan security agencies,” the FO said.

Pakistan accused Afghanistan of violating Vienna Convention of Diplomatic Relations (1961).

“It was emphasised that such incidents undermined the constructive engagement which the two countries envisaged for strengthening of bilateral ties,” it said.

There are serious concerns about the safety and security of Pakistani diplomats and embassy staff in Kabul. These concerns were reflected in the demarche handed over to Mr Shams in which it was said: “We urge the Afghan government to take immediate steps to ensure the security and safety of our diplomatic personnel and premises and to ensure that such incident do not take place in future.”

Published in Dawn, May 18th, 2017