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Who kidnapped Shahbaz Taseer, and why does it matter?
Two cars and a motorbike were used to kidnap the son of former governor Punjab Salmaan Taseer from Lahore's Gulberg area while he was on his way to office on Friday 26 August 2011. The city was gripped with panic because of this was the second high-profile kidnapping soon after the kidnapping of an American official, Warren Weinstein, from the city. Most likely, Shahbaz has been picked up by the Taliban through their affiliates such as Lashkar-e-Jhangvi which last February kidnapped the son-in-law of the former Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee (CJCSC), General Tariq Majid.

The police is considering other possibilities too. It could be Mr Taseer's tenants in a plaza which he wanted vacated for repairs; it could be a rival real-estate tycoon seen attacking the Taseer family through his local newspaper; and it could be a quarrel within his circle of personal friends. Although no one can be sure about who kidnapped Shahbaz one speculation is that Al Qaeda and its subordinate groups are the most likely candidates, as they augment their fast dwindling kitty of for buying explosives.

Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah has the most unbuttoned mouth in the province and has once again invited a barrage of denunciation from the opposition PPP, obfuscating the issue through mutual recrimination. Rana Sahib had put his foot in his mouth when hazarding a guess on who could have abducted the American from Lahore's Model Town. He came on TV and opined that Warren Weinstein could have been doing the kind of things in Pakistan that CIA contractor Raymond Davis had done, killing three people on a Lahore road.

Then an economist writing in Express-Tribune (26 August 2011) clarified the status of the American: 'Dr Warren Weinstein, who headed the Pakistan Initiative for Strategic Development and Competitiveness (PISDAC) project, is a very well known figure within Pakistan's aid and development community. Under the PISDAC project, Weinstein oversaw strategic interventions in the dairy, gems, jewellery, marble and granite sectors in Pakistan, resulting in the establishment of companies such as Pakistan Stone Development Company (PASDEC), and the Pakistan Dairy Development Company. The project also provided technical assistance in modernising dairy as well as marble production and improving marketing in the gems and jewellery sectors. The overall impact of that intervention on Pakistan's economy according to one reported, is estimated to be around $67 million.

'The details of Dr Weinstein's contribution to Pakistan's economy, including PISDAC and other projects, are easily available on the Internet. Given the current office that Mr Sanaullah occupies, and the importance of what he says to the press, Punjab's law minister should perhaps encourage his staff to use Google to keep him updated on such a sensitive issue'.

The other high-profile kidnapping in Lahore was that of Malik Amir which took place in August last year and he still has to be recovered. Malik, 35, a jeweler and president of Barkat Market Traders Union in Garden Town Lahore, was kidnapped by armed men from his Faisal Town, Lahore residence. After a lot of search the family finally received a videotape message in February 2011 showing masked militants wielding kalashnikovs in the background. Captive Amir stated that his kidnappers wanted to be paid a ransom amount of Rs130 million as well as want the release of 153 militants being held in various prisons across Pakistan.

Malik Amir is a prosperous son-in-law of the former Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee (CJCSC) General Tariq Majid, and his captor is Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ). The terrorist outfit most certainly wanted - through Malik Amir - to communicate with Pakistan Army.

Pakistan's ambassador to Afghanistan Tariq Azizuddin was taken hostage by Taliban terrorists in February 2008. Tariq was traveling by road from his home in Peshawar to Kabul. He was taken along with his driver Gul Nawaz and bodyguard Amir Sultan in Pakistan's Khyber Tribal Agency, prior to passing through the border crossing at Torkham. The Taliban bargained hard over Azizuddin (now our ambassador in Turkey) and got a lot of their terrorists released in Pakistan and Afghanistan. It was reported that a former Al Qaeda prisoner at the US military detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, was to be exchanged for him.

Money for Ambassador Azizuddin also changed hands through the Taliban chief, Baitullah Mehsud. It was reported that 55 additional militants were released, and that a payment of 20 million Pakistani rupees was made. One person released was Abdur Rahim Muslim-Dost. He was arrested along with his brother by Pakistani intelligence in November 2001 for links to Al Qaeda. Dost was an Afghan national, a journalist, and a poet. He was a member of Al Qaeda ally Gulbuddin Hekmatyar's Hizb-e-Islami and worked for three pro-Taliban publications.

In September 2008, Abdul Khaliq Farahi, an Afghan diplomat was seized in Peshawar and taken to a hideout which according to Farahi was only 20 minutes away. Farahi, 52, spent two years and two months as a captive of Arab members of Al Qaeda in Waziristan. Questioned under torture for the first six months, he was moved 17 times. Apart from the first days when local Pakistani and Afghan militants handled him, he was always held by Arabs, which tells us how Pakistani Taliban serve their Arab masters.

As he revealed after his release in March 2011, Farahi was driven deep into the mountains of South Waziristan where the militants ran a virtual mini-state beyond the control of the Pakistani government. Farahi was released the same way, for money and in return for the release of Al Qaeda-linked terrorists. The same thing happened with an Iranian diplomat picked up in Peshawar, Heshmatollah Attarzadeh, the Iranian consul, till he was released in March 2010, on the same terms.

Kidnappings may increase in the days to come, if past incidents are any indication. Al Qaeda once thought non-Muslims rather than Muslims should be abducted for ransom. The man who spearheaded this policy was Ilyas Kashmiri, a Pakistani Kashmir-related 'asset', who had finally joined Al Qaeda as its top commander. The man who handled the nitty-gritty was Major (r) Haroon Ashiq who had defected to Al Qaeda because his brother Captain (r) Khurram had earlier joined Al Qaeda and died fighting the Americans in Helmand. Haroon is now in Adiala Jail in Rawalpindi after getting caught trying to kidnap an Ahmadi. Kashmiri also got Haroon to kill Major-General (r) Alavi in Islamabad in 2008.

Al Qaeda thought kidnapping non-Muslims for ransom was kosher and had got him first to kidnap a Hindu from Karachi with the help of another Major Basit. When the Hindu was discovered to have no cash at home, he was let off on the condition of embracing Islam, with which, needless to say, he immediately complied. The Al Qaeda policy of kidnapping Ahmadis continues in force and at the time of writing the relative of a prominent Ahmadi of Lahore is with Al Qaeda - in the process of being bargained over.

Let us hope against all hope that the kidnappers of Shahbaz Taseer are not linked to Al Qaeda and that he has still not been taken out of Lahore into the mountain fastnesses of Al Qaeda, and that the abductors are discovered and forced to release him. Otherwise, this could be the beginning of a series of kidnappings-for-ransom of the financial elite of Lahore.

Militants target Kohat Tunnel as forces shell hideouts
Local militants in Darra Adamkhel town on Tuesday fired three rockets at the Kohat Tunnel, causing minor damages to its outer portion while the security forces continued shelling the suspected hideouts of militants on the fifth consecutive day.

Sources told The News that the militants had already taken positions on the hilltops around the semi-tribal valley and were targeting the security forces camps and other government facilities. The security forces also continued shelling the militants' hideouts, forcing the common populace of Sherakai, Bostikhel and other parts of the town to shift to safer places on the day one of the holy month of Ramazan.

Our Peshawar correspondent adds: Tribal Lashkar continued burning houses of Taliban militants and their supporters in the Salarzai Tehsil of the restive Bajaur Agency on Tuesday. Besides burning several other houses, the Lashkar had also set on fire the house of militant's regional commander and chief of his own faction, Karwan-e-Niamatullah, Maulvi Niamatullah, in Salarzai.

The Lashkar set on fire six houses of militants at Ghakhi, Tali, Baro and Nazakai villages of Salarzai.

Our Bara corrspondent adds: Political authorities in Khyber Tribal Agency on Tuesday detained six Jirga members for failing to produce two people wanted for alleged involvement in militancy. Those accused includes Mufti Ijaz, Amir of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI-F) in Khyber Agency and Hazrat Ali, brother of Hazrat Nabi alias Thamachay Mullah, who allegedly represents the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) in the Landikotal Tehsil.

Meanwhile, Tariq Hayat, the administrative head of the Khyber Agency, told media persons that the security forces would continue operation against Ghogakhel tribesmen until those wanted to the administration were handed over to the authorities.

Police baton charge Mufti Munir supporters’ rally
PESHAWAR: Police baton charged and fired tear gas at the supporters of Mufti Munir Shakir, a cleric, to stop them from attending a protest at Ring Road near Sarband, a locality in the suburbs of Peshawar. The rally was a sequel to a chain of protests in various parts of the provincial capital to condemn Mufti’s ouster from the Khyber Tribal Agency. According to Saeed Wazir, senior superintendent of Police, Peshawar, 204 protestors were arrested, out of which 100 belonged to Khyber Agency, 30 were from the adjacent Frontier regions while 74 people belong to Pishtakhara and its surrounding areas. Wazir said that 74 detainees of the settled areas were booked, while those from the tribal territories will be handed over to the political administration to be tried.

According to police sources, all the detainees were shifted to DI Khan jail. The sources said that police feared the number of people in the rally could swell into 15,000 and that it would have been difficult to control them if they went unruly. Therefore the police acted pre-emptively.

Tribesmen refuse to pay their electric bill...
Tribesmen of the Khyber Pass are blocking supply along Pakistan's main road to Afghanistan in an armed protest over unpaid electricity bills.
When Pakistan's despairing power company plunged their houses into darkness after years of non-payment, thousands of Afridi and Zakhakhel tribesmen responded by taking up their AK-47 assault rifles, heavy machine-guns and rocket-propelled grenade launchers.
They're avid elk hunters, y'know...
Gathering for an emergency meeting of a jirga, or tribal council, they resolved that they would never pay their bills and would blockade the pass until their electricity was restored.
They don't have to pay their electric bills like the rest of us because, ummm... Because they shouldn't.
Pakistan's crucial trade route came to a halt and hundreds of trucks were stranded at the Torkham border crossing. After three days of blockade, patient diplomacy by Pakistani "political agents" in charge of the autonomous region known as the Khyber Tribal Agency succeeded in clearing the pass on Sunday. The tribesmen's electricity was also restored, but they are still resolved never to pay the bill.
"We're entitled to that electricity because we have turbans and we have guns! Wanna see me beat my wife?"
Zarnar Afridi, from Landi Kotal in the Khyber Pass, led calls for a protest. Mr Afridi, 40, is the son of a spiritual leader of the Afridi tribe and a local organiser for Jamaat-e-Islami, Pakistan's largest Islamist party.
Who else?
He said: "I told everybody we have made sacrifices for Pakistan. We fought the British, we fought Hindu domination, we fought India and we helped our Afghan brothers to fight the Russians. When we didn't have anybody else to fight we fought each other! We will never pay our electricity bills."
"Paying for stuff is sissy! Wanna see me cut somebody's hand off?"
Virtually all the men of the Zakhakhel tribe and thousands of others rolled boulders on to the road near Ali Masjid, the narrowest point of the pass. Some tribesmen set up mortar positions and bombarded two bridges near the village of Malik Daria Khan. All the bombs missed and there was no damage.
They can't hit the broad side of a barn, but they fought the British, the Heathen Hindoo, the Russers, the Samoans, the Eskimos, and now they're looking for those damned Mexicans...

Thanks to Paul for the tip. I actually passed on blogging this one a couple days ago; the account in Dawn was nearly incoherent...

Eastern Shura kicks out 12 Paks
  • Eastern Shura in Afghanistan kicked out 12 Pakistani volunteers who fought along with the Taliban militia. "They were brought in cars and asked to walk into Pakistan," said a border guard at the Afghanistan-Pakistan border at Torkhum in the Khyber Tribal Agency. Sources said Khyber Agency authorities took custody of the 12 and put them in lock up in Landikotal subdivision. They were released by Rasool Sayyaf's Ittehad-e-Islami in Kabul.
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