KARACHI, Aug 2: Seven Pakistani sailors returned here on Thursday after staying in captivity of Somali pirates for 21 months. Officials involved in the development said an ‘extremely sensitive’ operation had ended with release of the men following payment of $1.1 million in ransom.
The released crew members of M.V. Albedo arrived at Karachi airport from Dubai by a foreign airliner and were received by Sindh Governor Dr Ishratul Ibad, who personally handled the entire process, and Chief Minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah along with members of the provincial and federal cabinets.
Emotional scenes were witnessed at Governor’s House where the families of the released sailors met them after nearly two years.
Muhammad Mujtaba hugged and kissed his three daughters and 18-month old son who was born three months after he was held hostage with his colleagues.
“One can’t explain the feelings,” he said with tears rolling down her cheeks. “I have seen my son for the first time. It was a terrible experience that we went through as we lost all hope of returning home and our families had no reason to live on.”Speaking at a ceremony held at Governor’s House, Dr Ibad described in length the process initiated a few months after the hijacking of the ship. He also praised Malik Riaz, founding chief of the Bahria Town who is at the centre of the Dr Arsalan Iftikhar scandal for his ‘huge contribution’.
“Bakhtwar, daughter of Mujtaba, made an appeal through television channels to President Asif Zardari that since his daughter is her namesake, he should help her. The president took notice of the appeal and asked his friends to make efforts in this regard.
After that I received a call from Malik Riaz who offered all his support and made a huge contribution,” the governor said.
He said 15 other hostages of the Malaysian-flagged ship, who belonged to Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Iran and India, had not been released by the pirates because their countries had hardly shown interest in the case.
Unlike the release in June last year of four Pakistanis among 22 sailors of M.V. Suez, the authorities did not explain the details of what the governor called ‘operation Subh-e-Nau’. Last year, Pakistani authorities had generated $2.1 million ransom that led to release of the crew members, including four Pakistanis, six Indians, 11 Egyptians and a Sri Lankan national.
The M.V. Albedo was sailing from the UAE to Kenya in November 2010 when it was hijacked by the Somali pirates. Ahmed Chinoy, chief of the Citizens-Police Liaison Committee (CPLC), who was involved in bargaining with the pirates, flew abroad to make the payment and accompanied the released sailors from Dubai. He said this operation much sensitive as compared to the previous one.
“After being released by the pirates, the sailors were shifted to an undisclosed location from where they were brought to Dubai and finally flown to Karachi,” he said.