Relations between Pakistan and Russia may be on the upswing, but that didn't prevent a wild diplomatic showdown in late December, when Pakistan executed a Russian citizen.
In a story that could have been an episode on Showtime's "Homeland" -- the latest season of which was based in a fictional version of Islamabad -- Pakistan’s respected Dawn newspaper reported Monday that the body of the Russian prisoner went missing for two days after he was hanged.
Where the body of Akhlas Akkhlak Ahmed was during that time is still a bit murky, but Dawn reported that Russian officials snatched it and tried to smuggle it out of the country.
The story begins on Dec. 21, when Ahmed, also known as Roosi, was hanged in Faisalabad, his punishment for being convicted of trying to assassinate Pakistan’s ex-military ruler, Pervez Musharraf, in 2003. A few days earlier, in response to a shocking school massacre by the Taliban in the northwestern city of Peshawar, Pakistan had lifted a six-year moratorium on capital punishment.
Russian officials had urged Pakistani leaders to spare Ahmed, arguing that he had been wrongly convicted. The 33-year-old had a Russian mother and a Pakistani father. He was raised in Russia but relocated to Pakistan as a teenager, according to local media accounts.
Russia condemned the execution, but little more was heard about the matter until the Dawn article appeared on Monday.
According to Dawn, after the execution, Ahmed's father collected his body and buried him in his home town in Kashmir. But then his mother arrived in Islamabad from Russia and demanded possession of the body, according to Dawn.
Quoting anonymous sources, Dawn said the mother, accompanied by Russian diplomats, traveled to the father’s home town and had the body exhumed on Dec. 23.
After driving more than 100 miles, Ahmed’s mother and Russian officials eventually ended up at the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (PIMS) hospital in Islamabad. But when they tried to store Ahmed's body there, Pakistani intelligence officials showed up and confronted them.
“Senior officers of the police and concerned authorities were contacted who advised to take the body to a private hospital and keep it there until further orders,” a source told Dawn.
Instead, Dawn reported that Russian officials told police they would drive the body to a medical center in Rawalpindi, the city adjacent to Islamabad.
What happened next, according to the account in Dawn, could be a scene from an action thriller.
“The body was put in an ambulance with the mother and some Russian diplomats accompanying it.
“But, according to the sources, the ambulance suddenly changed directions and instead of going to Rawalpindi headed for the diplomatic enclave at a very high speed," the article continued, referring to the walled, ultra-high-security district in Islamabad that houses many embassy compounds.
“The police gave it a chase but had to stop when it entered the Russian embassy,” Dawn wrote.
Unable to breach diplomatic protocol by entering the Russian Embassy, the newspaper reported, Pakistani paramilitary forces instead surrounded the building. The standoff lasted two days and ended only after Pakistan agreed to send Ahmed's body to Russia, Dawn reported.
In an interview with The Washington Post, a senior police official confirmed the first part of Dawn’s story, saying that Ahmed’s body was unearthed from Kashmir and driven to Islamabad. The police official also confirmed that the body was initially taken to PIMS.
But the official, speaking on condition of anonymity, denied that there was ever a car chase or embassy standoff. Still, the official admitted that “negotiations” were needed to resolve the matter.
“The Russians finally got the body, and it was flown to Russia,” the police official said.
A Russian diplomatic official, who also spoke on condition of anonymity, said the embassy now considers the matter to be “closed.” The official declined additional comment, except to confirm that Ahmed’s body is now back in Russia.