Pakistan has rejected as "unfounded" a terror alert in India that linked three men from Lahore to Lashkar-e-Tayiba, even as the trio sought protection from authorities after reports about them appeared in Indian media.
"These charges are mischievous and without any substance. We are looking into these unfounded allegations," a foreign office spokesperson was quoted as saying by media.
The spokesperson's statement came after Mumbai police, in response to the alert issued by a central agency tasked with gathering external intelligence, released photographs of five Pakistani men identified as members of LeT who had allegedly infiltrated India to carry out terrorist attacks.
Three of the men whose photos were released by Mumbai police -- traders Mehtab Ahmed Butt and Atif Butt and private security guard Babar Shabbir -- went to Gulberg police station in the heart of Lahore and sought protection from the authorities.
The traders and the security guard visited the police station with office-bearers and merchants of Hafeez Centre, a bustling market with shops that deal in mobile phones and computers, and brought the matter to the police's notice, ASP Tariq Aziz Sindhu said.
The trio said they were labelled as terrorists by Indian authorities even though they were present in Lahore and had never visited India. The two traders said they were running mobile phone shops in Lahore's largest electronics and cell phone market.
The traders produced their Computerised National Identity Cards and recorded their statements in the police daily diary, Sindhu said.
Traders from Hafeez Centre organised a protest following the Indian media reports. They burnt tyres on the roads and shouted slogans against India. They demanded that the Pakistan government lodge an official protest and take up the issue with India at a diplomatic level.
The protesters, who were carrying placards and banners, said the Pakistan government should demand a probe to ascertain how photographs of the two traders reached the Indian media and what evidence Indian law enforcement agencies had to declare them as terrorists.
Sections of the electronic media played up the incident, alleging that it was an effort by Indian security agencies to portray Pakistan in a negative light.
A TV talk show host known for sympathising with right wing groups hosted a special edition of his programme at Hafeez Centre last night and blamed the incident on Indian intelligence agencies.
Some leaders of the Jamaat-ud-Dawah claimed the incident was an example of the way Indian security agencies accused Pakistan of being involved in terrorist activities.
Mehtab Ahmed Butt, 40, told reporters that the Indian media reports labelling him a terrorist had disturbed him and his family.
"I was sitting at my shop when my friends told me after 9 pm that an Indian channel was flashing my photograph and describing me as a terrorist. I checked it on the internet and then alerted my brother Muhammad Fiaz Butt, who is President of the Hafeez Centre traders' union," he said.
Butt, a father of three, said he had been running a mobile phone shop for the last 14 years and had never visited India or applied for a visa. He said the other trader, Atif Butt, who had been running a cell phone business for 12 years, did not even have a passport.
Security guard Babar Shabbir too did not have a passport, he said.
He criticised what he described as the "dual standards" of the Indian government, saying innocent citizens like him were being harassed on the basis of fake allegations.
"I am not associated with any political or religious group. I am a peaceful citizen running a business to earn a livelihood," Mehtab said.
Mian Abid Aziz, one of the office-bearers of the Hafeez Centre traders' union, told PTI that the merchants had demanded that the Interior Ministry should get the three men cleared of all charges and take up the matter with the Indian government.
"We are surprised as to how the Indian media got these photos as these men are not even using Facebook. We want the foreign ministry to probe how the photographs reached India and how Pakistanis were declared terrorists by India."
Aziz said the traders had unanimously decided to file a writ petition on the incident and a suit for damages against news channels and the Indian government.