Pakistan's ISI raids Indian diplomats in Islamabad, power supply cut

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The bitter-sour relations between India and Pakistan seem to have hit a new low, with each country accusing the other of “harassing” its diplomats and their families.  India and Pakistan threatened to withdraw their diplomats from Islamabad and New Delhi, respectively, if the so-called “intimidation” was not stopped. 

Indian High Commissioner Ajit Bisaria on February 16 complained to Pakistan Foreign Secretary against multiple incidents of “hooliganism” against Indian personnel and their properties. He was quoted as saying in multiple media reports that Pakistan agencies cut off power and water supply for over two weeks. "The Indian High Commission in Pakistan has been facing tremendous harassment for long, particularly in the last year."

Pakistan, meanwhile, had similar grouse to air. It lodged four harassment charges, known as note verbale, with the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), alleging incidents of harassment and intimidation of its diplomats in New Delhi. Highlighting a recent episode, Pakistan High Commission said two cars carrying the children of Pakistan’s Deputy High Commissioner in New Delhi were followed and obstructed on Tuesday. The driver was also, apparently, threatened. A note verbale was unsigned and prepared in third person, making it less formal in nature. 

Pakistan High Commissioner Sohail Mohammed and Bisariya brought this to the attention of Foreign Secretary of India Vijay Keshav Gokhale. 

The relations between India and Pakistan hang in the balance, especially after the recent barbs exchanged at the UNHCR. The recent incidents of harassment also come close on the heels of frequent ceasefire violations across the Line of Control. 

Here are the top 10 developments of the India-Pakistan diplomatic spat so far:

1. ISI raids Indian residential complex, power and water supply cut off: The Indian residential complex in Islamabad, which is currently under construction, was allegedly raided by Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) that expelled all service providers, and later disconnected power and water supply, according to sources. Further, the Pakistan government delayed providing clearance for the complex, forcing Indian diplomats to compromise on their safety and security, the sources added. 

"Despite the Foreign Secretary's assurance, the power supply was not restored for over two weeks. The Pakistan High Commission faces no such disruptions (in India)," sources said, according to news agency PTI. Indian diplomats have often complained about unauthorised entry into their premises.

2. ‘Harassment the new normal’: Indian High Commissioner Ajay Bisaria, who had gone to Karachi for a literature festival, said his car was interrupted in the middle of the road to prevent him from attending a lunch hosted by Bohra community. "Harassment is the new normal for Indian High Commission personnel in Islamabad. The High Commissioner's car was recently stopped by Pakistani agencies in the middle of a busy road to prevent him from attending an event," a source said, according to PTI.

This is not the sole incident of Indian diplomats’ car being intercepted. Another diplomat said his car was suddenly interrupted and vigourously searched while he was on his way home, reported The Times of India. 

3. Indian official’s house invaded, laptop stolen: While sources claimed India made all efforts to provide a safe and secure haven to Pakistan diplomats, the same could not be said of Islamabad. In one of the cases, an official’s home was broken into and his laptop was added, according to sources. 

“The Indian High Commission in Pakistan has been facing tremendous harassment for long, particularly in the last year," the source added, according to news agency ANI.

4. Indian diplomats receive obscene calls and messages: Pakistan’s agency personnel have reportedly been shooting videos of Indian officers, flashing their mobile phones on their faces. Not just that, obscene phone calls and messages are constantly being sent to them. 

“Aggressive surveillance, violation of physical space and tailing of officers in close and dangerous proximity is a perennial issue,” the sources said, reported PTI. “In view of such an atmosphere of intimidation, most families have returned to India and children have been withdrawn from schools.”

5. Pakistan Deputy High Commissioner’s cars followed for 20 mins: On March 8, which was Women’s Day, Pakistan Deputy High Commissioner's cars were followed during the wee hours while his children were being dropped off to British School in New Delhi’s Chanakyapuri, reported The Indian Express. The commissioner was not inside the car. 

The charges claim both the cars were followed for almost 20 minutes, starting from the commissioner’s residence to the school. They were “continuously obstructed and harassed” and after the children were dropped off, the driver, who was forced to get off the vehicle was told that this was in retaliation to the Indian diplomat’s harassment in Pakistan, the report added. 

6. India’s “deliberate, uncivilised” actions towards Pakistan: A demarche was made to the Indian High Commission in Islamabad and to MEA in New Delhi accusing India of harassing its diplomats and their families in the country and threatened to pull out the families if the intimidation did not stop, reported Pakistani newspaper Dawn. Indian officials are yet to verify the same. 

These “uncivilised” actions by the Indian government have been as “deliberate” by Pakistan diplomats, reported Pakistan Pakisan Today. There are reportedly around 500-600 Pakistanis, including 104 officials and their family members in New Delhi. 

7. India-Pakistan blame game continues: However, sources in New Delhi said India had repeatedly requested Pakistan to mutually ensure that High Commissions were allowed to do their job in an atmosphere free of harassment and intimidation, that staff be allowed to work and that construction projects get completed on time. “Indian diplomats chose to tackle this matter with quiet and persistent diplomacy,” said a source.

Pakistan leaves no stone unturned either by highlighting 18 incidents of harassment and intimidation of against Pakistan High Commission officers as well their supporting staff in the note verbale. “Members of Pakistan diplomatic staff are abused in public and a number of accidents of vehicles have happened,” reported the Dawn. 

8. Pakistan stalls Bisaria’s membership: The Islamabad Club reportedly stalled Bisaria’s membership to the club, which is open for all diplomats, and finally granted him the membership after the matter was raised with Pakistan foreign ministry, reported the Indian Express.

9. Pakistan denies visa to Indian firms: The issue of India’s ongoing residential project in Islamabad faces an uphill battle as Pakistan has reportedly denied visas to Indian companies involved in construction work. The key contractor, who is responsible for maintenance of the complex, has been threatened to leave the complex and warned of stern action if he conducts any business for India. 

10. Serious violation of diplomatic norms: Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari strongly condemned the harassment of Pakistani diplomats in India and declared it a serious violation of diplomatic norms, reported Pakistan Today. 

Zardari called for the government to raise the issue with the Indian government and Indian ambassador in Pakistan and assure the security of diplomats. India, on its part, has pledged to investigate the matter in a discrete manner. 

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