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Kidnapping menace

May 31, 2012

THERE has been a considerable rise in kidnapping cases in Pakistan over the last few years, echoing the situation that prevailed in the late 1980s and early 1990s. While many cases are resolved quietly, others end in tragedy. This was the sad fate of senior neurosurgeon and kidnap victim Dr Aftab Qureshi, who was killed when a rescue attempt went awry in Hyderabad on Wednesday. Several questions regarding the incident require further probing, such as how a man claiming to be a hostage managed to escape while the operation was under way. Also, there seems to be some disagreement between the Hyderabad police and the Citizens-Police Liaison Committee, which coordinated the effort, over the way the rescue attempt was carried out. Things can easily go wrong in such situations, and precisely because the risk factor is so high it is essential that rescue operations are meticulously planned.

Several doctors have been abducted in Sindh in the last month, while kidnappings in Punjab have also risen. Foreign aid workers and businessmen are among the targets. Along with criminal gangs, groups affiliated with the Taliban are believed to be involved in kidnappings for ransom; demands in this regard have also become exorbitant, with some groups demanding hundreds of thousands of dollars. The CPLC has done a commendable job in resolving many kidnap cases and safely rescuing abductees. Yet given the guile and ruthlessness of the criminals involved, it is essential that the authorities stay one step ahead. Experts say that a specially trained, well-equipped force is needed nationwide that can be deployed in hostage-rescue situations, since these operations are beyond the abilities of regular police personnel. If personnel untrained in this specific task are sent in, there can be loss of life, as was the case in Dr Qureshi’s killing, in which a police ASI was also gunned down. Patience is key, as rescue attempts can never be rushed, while the authorities need to make full use of technology to neutralise criminals and pinpoint their whereabouts. There is also a need for more trained negotiators to deal with the kidnappers in order to ensure the safety of abductees.