KARACHI: Families and government officials in Karachi welcomed home on Thursday seven Pakistani crews’ members released by Somali pirates following a $1.1 million ransom payment after being held hostage for 20 months.
The Pakistani crew along with 14 other South Asians and an Iranian on a Malaysia-registered ship were captured by the pirates in the Gulf of Eden in November 2010.
The 15 other crew members - included seven Sri Lankans, six Bangladeshis and one each from India and Iran - are still in captivity.
“The pirates had initially demanded over 10 million dollars - our team negotiated through intermediaries and settled for over a million dollars,” Ishratul Ibad Khan, governor of Sindh province, told reporters.
“We generated the funds through our philanthropists, who were too generous to donate for the cause,” he added.
Javed Saleem, captain of the ship MV Albedo, which was seized en route to Kenya, said the Pakistan government “made all-out efforts to give us freedom, something that had become impossible even in our dreams.
“Those 20 months were the worst, we passed the most horrible time in our life,” he told reporters.
Hira Mujtaba, 11, daughter of chief officer Mohammad Mujtaba, said she would now celebrate the coming Eid with zeal.
“I had prayed to Allah for the safety of my father. I hadn't celebrated Eid since he was taken hostage,” she said.
Last year Pakistan paid $2.1 million dollars to Somali pirates for the release of four of its crew along with 11 Egyptians, six Indians and a Sri Lankan.
Piracy has surged in recent years off Somalia, a lawless, war-torn country that sits alongside one of the world's most important shipping routes.