Kidnappings for ransom

Interior Minister Rehman Malik disclosed to the National Assembly that 15,365 incidents of kidnapping and abduction took place in Pakistan last year. Out of the total, 13,497 took place in Punjab, 1,293 in Sindh, 273 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, 250 in Balochistan and 52 in Islamabad. Mr Malik said that usually these abductions are carried out by terrorists who target the big cities in order to make money. Children too are victims of such abductions and are in some cases used by the terrorists as suicide bombers. This is a very worrying development. A Swiss couple was recently kidnapped in Balochistan and the authorities are still clueless about their whereabouts. On the other hand, there were reports that French journalists Herve Ghesquiere and Stephane Taponier, who were kidnapped in Afghanistan, were released after a huge ransom was paid in Pakistan. Such incidents are not new but are now taking place with increasing frequency. There are a number of reasons for this development.

In traditional tribal society, kidnapping for ransom is not looked down upon as it is thought of as a means to survival. When the military went to FATA in 2004, the first contingents were cut to pieces by the Taliban. The military had to resort to peace deals, which did not work out. In the process, and over time, the traditional structures of political agents and maliks were dismantled. The vacuum was filled by the Taliban and jihadis. Now these terror groups are in a position to dictate terms. The tribes either cooperate with them out of fear and in case they do form a lashkar to resist them, the state and the army do not support them. This has led to the breakdown of whatever peripheral governance there was in FATA and the adjoining areas. When law and order and political structures broke down, the tribals reverted to their traditional ways to survive. This is not to say that only the tribals are involved in kidnapping; most of these abductions for ransom are done by the Taliban and jihadis to fund their terrorist activities. Kidnapping for ransom has now become a lucrative business. The nexus between the terrorists and traditional kidnappers is something the state has to fight. To do this, the military establishment must first abandon its policy of duality and take out all the terrorists.

(my editorial in Daily Times)

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