(This was originally posted in Hindustan Times by Rezaul H Laskar)
India on Thursday criticised Pakistan for dragging the country into the controversy over the abduction and assault of the Afghan envoy’s daughter in Islamabad last week and for denying the victim’s account of the “very shocking incident”. External affairs ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi contended that India was forced to respond because Pakistan interior minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed had dragged the country into the matter. Ahmed has described the incident as a “conspiracy” linked to India’s external intelligence agency.
Bagchi’s comments came hours after Afghanistan reiterated its deep concern over Ahmed’s claims that there is no evidence the Afghan envoy’s daughter was abducted in Islamabad and said such remarks could lead to greater mistrust between the two countries.
“This is, of course, a very shocking incident. It involves two other countries, Afghanistan and Pakistan, and usually we’d not comment on it. However, since the interior minister of Pakistan has dragged India into it, I would only like to say that even by their standards, Pakistan’s denial of the victim’s account is stooping to a new low,” Bagchi told a regular news briefing.
Selsela Alikhil, the 26-year-old daughter of Afghan ambassador Najibullah Alikhil, was abducted, held for almost five hour and assaulted by unidentified men in Islamabad on July 16. Two days later, the Afghan government recalled its envoy and senior diplomats from Islamabad over security concerns.
Ahmed, who is close to Pakistan’s military establishment, told a news conference on Tuesday that an investigation into the incident had found no evidence of an abduction. “There is no case of kidnapping,” Ahmed said.
The Afghan foreign ministry reiterated its concern at Ahmed’s remarks in a statement issued on Wednesday. Afghan foreign minister Mohammed Haneef Atmar had earlier conveyed similar concerns in a phone call with his Pakistani counterpart Shah Mahmood Qureshi on Monday.
“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs once again expresses deep concern over the continuation of unprofessional remarks by Pakistan’s Interior Minister regarding the abduction of the daughter of our Ambassador in Islamabad,” the statement said.
“While the investigation process has not been concluded and the perpetrators have not been arrested, the continuation of unilateral statements and unprofessional prejudgments will call the transparency of the investigation into question and result in increased mistrust,” it added.
The statement pointed out that hospital reports had “endorsed the mental and physical torture” of Selsela Alikhil. “We expect unprofessional prejudgements to be avoided before the investigation comes to an end. Instead, we urge that all efforts should be geared towards obtaining evidence and completing the probe, as well as arresting and prosecuting the perpetrators,” it said.
The Afghan foreign ministry said it is committed to full cooperation in the investigation process through the collaboration of delegations from both sides. “We hope to see the reasons behind the incident, and the investigation results soon finalized and announced based on the findings of the investigating teams of the two countries,” it added.
Ahmed had also said on Tuesday that the incident was being used as a way to “defame” Pakistan. He added, “Pakistan will not back down from this case, even though there is a huge difference between her (claim) and our findings.”
As fighting raged in Afghanistan with the Taliban, a war of words erupted last week and vice president Amrullah Saleh accused the Pakistani military of providing “close air support to Taliban in certain areas”. Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has accused Pakistan of failing to prevent the influx of 10,000 terrorists and of not doing enough to nudge the Taliban to join peace talks to find a political settlement.