India calls Pakistan’s claim of targeted killings ‘false’

Muhammad Syrus Qazi
Image caption,Pakistan Foreign Secretary Muhammad Syrus Qazi called the killings “a violation of its sovereignty”

By Meryl Sebastian

BBC News, Kochi

India has dismissed allegations by Pakistan that its agents killed two Pakistani citizens on its soil in 2023, calling them “false”.

Pakistan’s claims come months after Ottawa alleged that India was involved in the murder of a Sikh separatist in Canada – India has denied this.

On Thursday, Islamabad said it had “credible evidence” of links between the two killings and Indian agents.

India’s foreign ministry called it “malicious anti-India propaganda”.

The two deaths in Pakistan include the killing of Muhammad Riaz in Rawalakot city in September 2023 and Shahid Latif in Sialkot city in October 2023, the country’s foreign ministry said in a press briefing on Thursday. One of the men was shot dead while praying at a mosque, while the other was killed outside one.

Pakistan’s foreign ministry did not disclose who these people were or the reasons for Delhi allegedly dispatching agents to carry out the killings within its arch-rival’s territory.

Foreign Secretary Muhammad Syrus Qazi called the killings “unacceptable” and “a violation of its sovereignty”.

“We have documentary, financial and forensic evidence of the involvement of the two Indian agents who masterminded these assassinations,” he said.

India must be held “accountable” for its “blatant violation of international law”, he added.

India did not directly address the specific allegations raised by Pakistan but called the country an “epicentre of terrorism, organised crime and illegal transnational activities”.

“India and many other countries have publicly warned Pakistan cautioning that it would consume by its own culture of terror and violence,” its foreign ministry said in a statement.

Mr Qazi also said that the killings in Pakistan were similar to attempts in Canada and the US – though those allegations were about the murders or attempted murders of Sikhs, not Muslims.

In November 2023, the US said it had foiled an alleged plot by an Indian man to assassinate an American citizen in New York who advocated for Khalistan, or a separate Sikh state.

Nikhil Gupta was allegedly directed by an Indian government official who was not named or charged in the indictment.

The White House said it had raised the alleged assassination plot with India at the most senior levels. India said it had formed a high-level inquiry committee to “address the security concerns highlighted by the US government”.

The news came months after Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said there was “credible” evidence connecting the Indian government to the murder of a Sikh leader in British Columbia in June. India denied any role in that killing.

The allegation led to a steep deterioration in ties between the two countries.

The Khalistan movement peaked in India in the 1980s with a violent insurgency centred in Sikh-majority Punjab state.

It was quelled by force and has little resonance in India now, but is still popular among some in the Sikh diaspora in countries such as Canada, Australia and the UK.

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