ISLAMABAD, August 7 — The current Ambassador of Austria in Islamabad has made an attempt to grab the property of former Foreign Minister of Pakistan, the late Agha Shahi.
Heirs of Agha Shahi, including his nephew Agha Zafar Hilaly, who was Pakistan’s Ambassador to Italy and Benazir Bhutto’s Advisor on Foreign Affairs told Arab News that “Ambassador Dr. Michael Stigelbauer is not willing to vacate or pay rent after Agha Shahi’s death in 2006, notwithstanding repeated demands by the Pakistan Foreign Office and a Court Judgment asking him to vacate the premises. To my mind such defiance of a country’s laws are unprecedented and unacceptable.”
Agha Shahi, a former Foreign Minister, now deceased, rented his property House 13, Street 1, F6/3 to the Austrian Embassy in July 1996 for a period of four years. The lease was subsequently renewed on two occasions up to July 2008. Following Agha Shahi’s death in 2006, the ownership of his property was transferred via the judgment of the Court, the CDA and the Tehsildar, Islamabad, to his legal heirs.
The Austrian Ambassador, however, seized the opportunity of Mr. Shahi’s death to stop paying the rent and, after the expiry of the lease, to recognize the transfer of the property to his legal heirs.
The heirs then contacted the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and successive Chiefs of Protocol have summoned the Ambassador and urged him to abide by the Decision of the Court. However, the Austrian Ambassador has refused to vacate the premises or to recognize the Court’s decision.
The heirs thereafter moved the Courts once again and have now obtained an eviction order that states inter alia that the Austrian Embassy “are directed to hand over the vacant possession of the demised premises — failing which the appropriate proceedings for eviction [can be initiated] in accordance with the law.”
The next step in such cases normally is for the bailiff accompanied by the Police to evict the tenant forcibly. However, the Austrian Ambassador is taking the shield that diplomatic immunity offers to save himself from this humiliation.
Never in the past has an Embassy used the cover of diplomatic immunity to act as a Qabza group in Islamabad. The behavior of the Austrian Ambassador is inexplicable and Pakistan is deeply puzzled as to why the Ambassador, despite repeated interventions, has refused to heed their advice.
The matter is being taken up with the Austrian government in Vienna. The Pakistan Parliament is expected to criticize the Foreign Office for permitting the Austrian Ambassador to display contempt of court.