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Af-Pak rupture

The incident deserves to be treated with far greater seriousness than the government in Islamabad has been able to muster.

Statesman News Service | New Delhi |

The abduction of and assault on the daughter of Afghanistan’s ambassador to its neighbour, Pakistan, has soured bilateral relations at a particularly sensitive juncture, specifically on the eve of the US troop pullout and its inevitable impact on geostrategy.

A heinous crime has, in less than a week, assumed the character of a diplomatic crisis. President Ashraf Ghani’s government in Kabul has announced that it will withdraw its ambassador and other senior staff from Islamabad in the immediate aftermath of the crime, which has made a mockery of the certitudes of international law.

Specifically, Silsila Alikhil (26), the daughter of the ambassador, Najibullah Alikhil, was last Friday abducted, tortured and assaulted by as yet unidentified miscreants in Islamabad. She was travelling in a hired vehicle and was detained for several hours before being released.

In a swift diplomatic retaliation, the leadership of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan has called back Kabul’s envoy and other senior diplomats from Pakistan, until all security threats are addressed, “including the arrest and trial of the perpetrators of the abduction”, to quote a statement issued by the Afghan foreign ministry. Furthermore, an Afghan delegation will visit Pakistan very shortly to decide on the follow-through in the matter and all related issues.

The government in Kabul has warned that “subsequent actions will follow on the basis of the findings”. Pakistan’s response doesn’t quite match the enormity of the crime; it has been feeble. Going by the interior minister, Sheikh Rashid’s interview to Geo News, the ambassador’s daughter was not abducted.

“She went to Rawalpindi on her own will” . But the minister’s version doesn’t quite address the crucial question as to why Silsila’s body bore torture marks ~ conclusive evidence of the treatment meted out to her.

The minister’s statement ran counter to his version advanced at an earlier press conference, i.e. that the police had registered a first information report on the abduction and torture. “We have registered a case on Silsila’s request.” Sheikh Rashid would appear to have contradicted himself.

Then why the strained denial subsequently? More accurately, there is little or no substance in Pakistan’s version when contextualised with Afghanistan’s robust response. Silsila has said that she went to buy a gift and had hired a taxi. The fact that three taxi drivers have been interrogated is a pregnant initiative.

The incident deserves to be treated with far greater seriousness than the government in Islamabad has been able to muster.

The recall of the ambassador and other senior officials from Pakistan is in itself a barometer of the resultant rupture on either side of the volatile Af-Pak frontier. The silence of Imran Khan is rather puzzling.