A relatively new organization calling itself the Baloch Liberation United Front (BLUF) has accepted responsibility for John Solecki’s kidnapping. The organization is demanding the release of around 6000 missing Baloch people who have been arrested by the Pakistani army intelligence agencies along with 141 Baloch women.
” We demand a resolution of the Baloch issue via Geneva Conventions,” said Shaik Baloch, a spokesman of the BLUF.
Solecki, the Balochistan head of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), was kidnapped on February 2 when he was on his way to the office located in Quetta’s Chaman Housing Society. His driver, Syed Hashim, was killed by the kidnappers.
” The reason it took us five days to claim responsibility was to make sure that we reach at a safe place before claiming responsibility,” said the spokesman: ” We are at a safe place now”.
The spokesman said his organization had no links with other Baloch armed groups but supported their cause and it would continue its operations in the future. ” If the UN does not meet our demands, we will kill its official and the onus would lie on the UN itself,” he warned.
The spokesman said John was absolutely fine. They could kill him at the first place but did not do so because they are peaceful people struggling for a just cause. However, if the UN takes their demands lightly then they will be obliged to kill the UN official.
“John is safe and sound in our custody,” said Mir Shahik Baloch, the spokesman of the BLUF, who telephoned various newspaper offices in Quetta via satellite phone from an undisclosed location. “We have kidnapped John to highlight the plight of the Baloch people in Pakistan who are being treated by the State worse than slaves. If the UN does not intervene and ensure the release of 6000 missing Baloch people, including 141 women and resolve the Baloch issue according to the Geneva conventions, we will kill John,” warned the spokesman.
Who are the actual kidnappers of Solecki?
Soon after the abduction of the American UN official, speculations went on the direction of the Baloch insurgents and the Talian operating in the area. But both the groups, including the top-most Baloch armed group, the Baloch Liberation Army (BLA) disassociated itself from the kidnaping of the US citizen. It is the first time the BLUF has emerged on the surface.
The Baloch are a people who have sacrificed their lives to guard their guests. Shaeed Nawab Akbar Kahn Bugti cared so much about his Hindu minority subjects that he kept them close to his fort so that no one could harm the Hindus. The Baloch went to sacrifice their lives when Dr. Shahzia Khalid was raped by the Pakistani army. Our history is full of such examples. We can die but cannot let our guests be slightly affected.
Baloch Reaction The entire day across Balochistan went discussing the Baloch Liberation United Front (BLFU). There is a mixed reaction. Many are unwilling to buy the argument that the Baloch could kidnap an American national. Because one does not see similar instances in the past. Those in a state of disbelief, contend that it is a deliberate attempt by the state of Pakistan to
a) Declare the Baloch as terrorists across the world in return of their democratic struggle for the just right of Baloch ownership on their natural resources.
b) Cause a set-back to the ongoing trail of two Baloch leaders, Hairbayar Marri and Faiz Baloch who are currently facing terrorism charges in a London court.
c) To provide a justification for the establishment of more military check-posts, cantonments and increase the number of troops in Balochistan province.
d) To present the Baloch fighters as even more brutal than the Taliban.
Inspector General Frontier Corps speaks:
In an interview with Aaj TV, Inspector General Frontier Corps (FC) Major General Saleem Nawaz spoke very harshly against the kidnappers. “They [ the kidnappers] have touched a wrong person and will have to pay a heavy price for this act,” he warned.
The IG repeatedly argued that the BLUF was in fact the reshaping of the older organizations. Sitting from Afghanistan, he charged, Bramdagh Bugti, the grandson of Nawab Mohammad Akbar Khan Bugti, was running these operations on the directives of foreign elements. “If he were in the country, we would have arrested and brought him to justice,” he assured.
Mr. Nawaz also ridiculed the BLUF demands for the release of 141 missing women and 6000 other Baloch missing persons. In his views, these were exaggerated figures and if some people were really missing then their relatives and neighbors should contact the government to seek justice.
Kidnappers threaten American abducted in Pakistan
By ABDUL SATTAR – 1 day ago
QUETTA, Pakistan (AP) — Kidnappers threatened on Friday to kill an American employee of the United Nations within 72 hours and issued a grainy video of the blindfolded captive saying he was “sick and in trouble.” A letter accompanying the video delivered to a Pakistani news agency said the hostage, John Solecki, would be killed unless authorities released 141 women it said were being held in Pakistan.
The video and the demands indicated that Solecki, the head of the U.N. refugee agency in Quetta, a city near the Afghan border, was alive and that his captors wanted to negotiate.
Solecki, who appeared blindfolded and with a shawl draped over his shoulders in the 20-second clip, said his message was addressed to the United Nations.
“I am not feeling well. I am sick and in trouble. Please help solve the problem soon so that I can gain my release,” he said.
The kidnappers have identified themselves as the Baluchistan Liberation United Front, suggesting a link to local separatists who have waged a long insurgency against Pakistan’s government rather than to the Taliban or al-Qaida, which are fighting U.S. forces in Afghanistan.
Still, the death threat heightened fears for Solecki’s safety, coming just a week after Taliban militants apparently beheaded a Polish geologist abducted in another border area of Pakistan after the government failed to respond to demands for a prisoner release.
The Pole’s slaying, if confirmed, would be the first killing of a Western hostage in Pakistan since American journalist Daniel Pearl was beheaded in 2002.
Gunmen seized Solecki on Feb. 2, after shooting his driver to death as they drove to work in Quetta.
Days later, the previously unknown Baluchistan Liberation United Front claimed responsibility for the kidnapping in a telephone call to the Quetta office of Online International News Network, a Pakistan-based news agency.
Online said it received an anonymous telephone call Friday telling it to collect a parcel from the post office, in which it found a memory card from a mobile phone containing the video of Solecki as well as the letter.
It supplied a copy of the video to Associated Press Television News and allowed an AP reporter to see the letter.
The letter demanded the release of 141 women from Pakistani custody and said the group would issue another list of hundreds of alleged male prisoners. “We will issue this list very soon. If our demands are not met, we will murder John Solecki,” it said.
The commander of a government paramilitary unit in Quetta dismissed the claim of female prisoners as fiction.
“Who are these 141 women? Who knows who they are? This is just attention-seeking. This is just terrorism,” Maj. Gen. Salim Nawaz told the Aaj television network.
Nawaz said that “powers who want to destabilize Pakistan” were manipulating ethnic Baluch separatist groups — language usually used by Pakistani officials to mean archrival India.
Maki Shinohara, a spokeswoman for the United Nations, said it had not been able to establish contact with the kidnappers. She said officials were scrambling to work out how to respond to the threat and the demands.
At United Nations headquarters in New York, U.N. associate spokesman Farhan Haq said the world body was studying the video to determine what to do next.
“We have seen the video and based on what we can see, it appears to be the person in the picture is John Solecki,” Haq said. “Our team in Islamabad continues to examine the information. We have nothing further to add at this time beyond reiterating our appeal that John be released.”
U.S. Embassy officials could not be reached late Friday for comment.
A string of attacks on foreigners near Pakistan’s border with Afghanistan in recent months have highlighted authorities’ crumbling control in the face of an intensifying Islamic insurgency.
Afghanistan’s ambassador-designate, an Iranian diplomat and a Chinese telecoms engineer have been seized in or near the main northwestern city of Peshawar and are still missing. Gunmen killed an American aid worker in Peshawar in November.
While Quetta has been relatively calm, Afghan officials have repeatedly described it as a hub for Taliban leaders orchestrating the insurgency across the border. Pakistan’s denies that.
Associated Press writers Asif Shahzad and Stephen Graham in Islamabad and John Heilprin at the United Nations contributed to this report.
Kidnappers of an American U.N. official John Solecki release his video
Kidnapped UN official to be recovered soon: Malik
Sunday, February 15, 2009
By Muhammad Ejaz Khan
QUETTA: Adviser to the Prime Minister on Interior Rehman Malik on Saturday said the government is utilising all resources to recover kidnapped UN official John Solecki, and hoped he would soon be recovered as they have some indications.
Talking to newsmen at the Chief Minister Secretariat soon after attending a high-level meeting to review the kidnapping case of Solecki, Malik observed that those who had kidnapped the UN official wanted to create problems for the country.
“We will take every possible step to ensure safe recovery of John Solecki,” he said and added that the demands of the captors are ìunrealisticî. He said: “I have been directed by President Asif Ali Zardari and the prime minister to review the progress about the case and we are hopeful the UN official would be recovered soon.”
He said the three demands from the group are not based on reality and one is about release of 141 women that the group says had been arrested by the government of Balochistan or the federal government. “I categorically assure that ladies have not been arrested by the Balochistan or federal government as both the governments were struggling for securing the rights of women. We have counter-checked from Nadra and if anybody has any clue he should approach the government as a telephone number of the CM Secretariat had been allotted in this regard.”
Malik said: “I would like to invite the attention of the international community that these are highly unrealistic demands. Let the parents and children of the ladies come forward.”
He said if anybody had the list it should be produced and we would release them.
Replying to a question about the 72-hour ultimatum given by the captors, Malik said the abductors wanted to weaken the country. “I appeal to them to release John Solecki because he came here to serve the people.”
Meanwhile, a press statement said the UN is seeking direct contact with those who are holding UN refugee agency’s (UNHCRís) representative in Quetta, John Solecki, to confirm he is indeed alive.
The United Nations is aware of the demand relayed through the media, and also seeks urgent contact to discuss ways of securing his safe release as soon as possible, it said. The United Nations appeals to the community leaders, the people and all parties concerned to support its current efforts to obtain contact with those who are holding him, it added.
Agencies add: “We have sufficient good leads which I cannot share right now. I hope to God and pray to God and Insha Allah we will succeed in recovering him,” Malik told reporters..
He condemned the kidnappers as “anti-Pakistan and anti-Islam.”
The abduction is the most high-profile Western kidnapping in Pakistan since US journalist Daniel Pearl was snatched in 2002 and beheaded by Al-Qaeda militants.
The efforts of the kidnappers are aimed at increasing international pressure on the country, he said.
He, however, said the government could not be blackmailed and called upon the people in whose custody Solecki is to release him immediately.
The adviser said maintenance of law and order was the provincial government’s responsibility and said the federal government would ensure every possible assistance in this regard.
Terming the authenticity of the list provided by the group as challengeable, the adviser said after sharing the list with the CM, the IG Frontier Corps and officials of law-enforcement agencies, he was sure that none of the ladies was with the government.
He explained that the name of Zarina Marri neither existed in the record of Nadra nor that of the local administration.
“If the list provided to the authorities is based on reality, the heirs of these 141 ladies should contact the CM House. The government will again verify their names and take steps for their release.”
Clarifying the status of allegedly missing 6,000 Baloch youths, Malik said the government received an incomplete list of 800 youths a few months ago. Only 200 names mentioned in the list were verified, of whom most had gone abroad while many of the remaining persons were released after interrogation.
Malik expressed the doubt that the enemies of the country might have planned to fulfil their motives by making unrealistic demands.