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Dawn’s Wana correspondent freed by kidnappers

Published Nov 22, 2006 12:00am

ISLAMABAD, Nov 21: Dilawar Khan Wazir, a correspondent for Dawn and BBC Urdu service, was released by his unidentified captors on Tuesday evening who had kidnapped him a day earlier and kept him in illegal confinement for more than 24 hours.

He had gone missing in mysterious circumstances in Islamabad on Monday after he had left the hostel of the International Islamic University, where he had gone to meet his younger brother. The disappearance of the highly respected tribal journalist, who had been covering events in South Waziristan and other areas in the troubled tribal region, had sent a wave of shock and anger in the journalist fraternity.

Several hours after his release, when Dilawar Khan met his colleagues from the BBC and Dawn, he looked traumatised, disoriented and appeared to be in a state of shock. Narrating the ordeal he had gone through he broke down a number of times, leaving little doubt in the minds of his colleagues that during the period of his detention he underwent a very rough time.

However, Interior Minister Aftab Ahmed Khan Sherpao told Dawn that Dilawar Khan had been found in “fit and sound” condition.

The minister was reluctant to give details about the ‘kidnappers’ who had picked up the journalist from Pirwadhai, a busy public place in Islamabad on Monday.

“Do not ask more specific questions,” the minister said while replying to a question about the identity of the kidnappers.

Trying to play down the sudden disappearance of the journalist, the minister said: ”There is nothing to be worried about. He has come back home.”

Dilawar Khan told his colleagues that he was picked up from near the police lines in Islamabad by six or seven people who stopped his taxi and pushed him out. He was manhandled, blindfolded, thrown into a car and taken to an unknown place.

Dilawar said he remained blindfolded till his release and was beaten several times during custody. He said he was repeatedly questioned about his work in the tribal areas and his sources of information.

On Tuesday evening, he was driven to a wooded area close to Islamabad and left there, from where he caught a taxi and reached office.

Although Dilawar Khan has been quite reluctant to talk about the identity of his captors, and understandably so, the kind of questions he was asked during the detention strongly suggest that he may have been detained by one of the security agencies dealing with affairs in the tribal areas.

A statement issued by Dilawar Khan’s colleagues says they are extremely pleased at his safe return while remaining deeply concerned about the entire incident. At the same time, says the statement, his colleagues were extremely disturbed and have reasons to believe that Dilawar’s abductors were the people who were not pleased with his reporting and wanted to silence one of the few remaining journalists who have been reporting independently from the tribal areas.

When contacted, Secretary Interior Syed Kamal Shah said it was too early to say about the kidnappers and the motive behind the kidnapping. “We have to conduct debriefing of the released journalists to investigate the case,” the official said.

Earlier in the day the BBC had expressed ‘serious concern’ over the sudden disappearance of the journalist and called upon the Pakistan government to help locate him.

The BBC World Service Director Nigel Chapman had written formally to the Pakistan Interior Ministry to request urgent help in tracing the journalist.

Nigel Chapman wrote: “I am seriously concerned about the whereabouts of our reporter and would request your kind help in tracing him at the earliest. I would be very grateful for your support in this matter.”

Islamabad police has registered the abduction case of Mr Wazir against unknown kidnappers, but despite the fact that the registration number of the car used in the kidnapping had been noted down, the police could not trace the car and the abductors. According to his brother Zulfiqar Ali, some plainclothes men had come to his hostel asking him that Wazir had met with an accident and now he was in PIMS Hospital.

But doctors in the hospital said that no such man had been admitted there on Monday.

In the evening, journalists covering Senate session boycotted the proceedings to protest against the abduction and illegal confinement of Dilawar Khan.