‘Credible evidence’: Islamabad says Indian agents linked to Pakistani citizens’ killings

ISLAMABAD (PEN) : Foreign Secretary Syrus Sajjad Qazi said Thursday that Pakistan had “credible evidence” proving that Indian agents were involved in killing two Pakistanis on Islamabad’s soil, showing New Delhi’s “brazen” terrorist activities were growing in the neighboring nation.

“These are killings-for-hire cases involving a sophisticated international set-up spread over multiple jurisdictions,” Foreign Secretary Syrus Qazi told reporters during a press conference in Islamabad at the Foreign Office.

He said that India’s reckless and irresponsible act calls into question its reliability as a credible international player and its claims for enhanced global responsibilities.

Already strained by historical baggage and border disputes, Islamabad and New Delhi’s ties hit new lows after 2016’s Kulbushan Yadav spy arrest and the 2019 revocation of Indian Illegal Occupied Jammu and Kashmir’s (IIOJK) special status.

The Kashmir move, a blatant violation of international laws, froze diplomacy and choked trade between the two adjoining countries. Pakistan has, for more than four years, conditioned restoring ties with its nuclear neighbour to the restoration of IIOJK’s special status.

Pakistan’s latest statement comes months after both Canada and the United States separately accused Indian agents of being linked to assassination attempts on their soil. However, New Delhi has rejected Ottawa’s allegations and has launched an investigation into Washington’s claims.

Providing details of the “sophisticated and sinister” Indian campaign of killings inside Pakistan, Qazi said that the Indian agents used technology and safe havens on foreign soil to commit assassinations in Pakistan.

“They recruited, financed and supported criminals, terrorists and unsuspecting civilians to play defined roles in these assassinations,” he added.

The foreign secy blasted Indian media and social media accounts for their quick claims and glorification of the said killings as “successful retribution against ‘enemies’ of India” and projecting their capacity to carry out these illegal acts.

“Potential assassins were recruited, using social media, talent spotters and fake Da’esh accounts,” Qazi said.

He said that there was complete compartmentalisation of the various components of the operation with the employment of teams of financiers, locators, and assassins.

“Elaborate exit plans were developed to obscure all potential tracks.”

The passports of Indian agents Yogesh Kumar (right) and Ashok Kumar. — Foreign Office
The passports of Indian agents Yogesh Kumar (right) and Ashok Kumar. — Foreign Office

Qazi said that the information being provided was for two cases, the assassinations of Shahid Latif and Muhammad Riaz, while a few other similar cases were currently under investigation, which will be revealed in due course.

The assassination of Shahid Latif

Qazi said that on October 11, 2023, a group of criminals assassinated Latif outside a mosque in the city of Sialkot.

A detailed investigation revealed that an Indian agent, Yogesh Kumar, based in a third country orchestrated the assassination through criminals and terrorists, he added.

Going deeper into the details of the killing, the foreign secretary revealed that Kumar recruited Muhammad Umair, a labourer in that third country to act as a contact with local criminals in Pakistan to trace and assassinate Latif.

The recruited local criminals were able to locate and trace Latif, however, the killers-for-hire were unable to carry out the execution, Qazi added.

“After some failed attempts, Muhammad Umair was personally sent to Pakistan to carry out the assassination. Muhammad Umair organised a team of five target killers which after the first failed attempt on 9 October 2023, succeeded in assassinating Shahid Latif on 11 October 2023.”

The foreign secretary further stated that the law enforcement authorities apprehended the target killers, including Umair, based on confessional statements and technical evidence, thwarting their bid to flee Pakistan on October 12, 2023.

Qazi said that all those involved in reconnaissance and killing have been apprehended and are being tried in a court of law.

He added that the FO also had evidence of transactions made in the process linking the entire chain to Indian agent Yogesh Kumar.

Assassination of Muhammad Riaz

Sharing the details of the second extra-territorial killing, Qazi said that another Indian agent was involved in killing of Pakistani national Muhammad Riaz. As per the foreign secretary, Riaz was assassinated in a mosque in Rawalakot during Fajr prayer on September 8, 2023.

He said that the law enforcement agencies tracked and apprehended the killer, Muhammad Abdullah Ali, on September 15, 2023, while boarding a flight at Jinnah International Airport, Karachi.

“Interrogation revealed that Muhammad Abdullah Ali was recruited and guided by Indian agents Ashok Kumar Anand and Yogesh Kumar. Indian agents utilised social media app Telegram to recruit Muhammad Abdullah Ali, who was asked to locate Muhammad Riaz,” Qazi revealed.

He further stated that Ali received payments through the middlemen based in a third country, and he was also provided with weapons and ammunition.

“After a failed attempt on September 7, 2023, Muhammad Abdullah Ali succeeded in killing Muhammad Riaz on September 8, 2023,” he added.

Later, the law enforcement authorities apprehended the killer, his supporters and facilitators from various cities of Pakistan, and the case is being tried in a court of law.

Qazi said that the investigators quickly identified the facilitators inside the country and in the third countries on the basis of confessional statements of Ali and technical evidence.

“We have documentary, financial and forensic evidence of the involvement of the two Indian agents, who masterminded these assassinations. We are releasing the passport details of Yogesh Kumar and Ashok Kumar,” he added.

As per the foreign secretary, Pakistan had reached out to the governments of the relevant third countries in this regard.

‘Cases show India’s growing brazenness’

Qazi also shared the conclusions drawn from the above-stated information, saying that these cases reveal the growing sophistication and brazenness of Indian-sponsored terrorist acts in Pakistan.

He said that the cases fit the pattern of similar cases that have come to light in other countries, including Canada and the United States, clearly showing that the Indian network of extra-judicial and extra-territorial killings has become a global phenomenon.

“Pakistan has remained a target of extra-judicial killings for some time now. We are now witnessing an increased sophistication in these operations as revealed in these two cases,” he said.

Qazi called for India’s accountability on an international level for its “blatant violation of international law,” saying that the assassination of citizens on Pakistani soil was not only a violation of the country’s sovereignty but also a breach of the UN Charter.

“This violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty by India is completely unacceptable,” he stressed.

He then demanded bringing to justice the killers, their facilitators and financers involved in the assassinations of Pakistani nationals and extra-judicial and extra-territorial killings in other countries.

In the concluding remarks, Qazi said that Pakistan remains committed to protecting its people and securing its sovereignty.

“Protection of Pakistanis and any foreign national on Pakistani soil is a high priority for the Government of Pakistan,” he said.

One of these two cases traces back to the Daska mosque shooting of Shahid Latif, who was an activist of the banned Jaish-e-Muhammad (JeM), in October last year.

Pakistan called out the country involved in the attack as a “rogue nation” for carrying out the terrorist activity right after the incident.