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PESHAWAR, Jan 24: The Peshawar High Court on Thursday directed the Fata Secretariat, political administrations of North and South Waziristan agencies and Wapda authorities to form a joint team to expedite efforts for early and safe recovery of eight Gomal Zam Dam Project employees kidnapped by militants five months ago.

A bench comprising Chief Justice Dost Mohammad Khan and Justice Irshad Qaiser also directed the North and South Waziristan political administrations and Wapda authorities to again contact social activist Ansar Burney, who had earlier promised them to play a role in raising funds for the release of the captives.

It observed that the statements of the relevant officials suggested that they had been making efforts individually and there was need of the hour to make collective efforts for their recovery.

Initially, the bench heard different government officials but later, the rest of the proceedings were conducted in the chamber at their request due to sensitive information available with them.

The next hearing was later fixed for Feb 6.

Relatives of the kidnapped persons informed the bench that kidnappers had informed them by telephone that they had set the Jan 24 deadline for the acceptance of their demands.

Political agents Siraj Ahmad Khan of North Waziristan and Shahidullah Khan of South Waziristan said the case was high-profile and therefore, the kidnappers had been giving one deadline after another to pressure relatives and the administrations.

Mr Siraj said in accordance with the earlier order of the court, the additional chief secretary and secretary (law and order) of Fata Secretariat had set up camp office in Miramshah.

He added that he had convened a jirga of Utmanzai tribe and warned them of action under the territorial and collective responsibility clauses of the Frontier Crimes Regulation (FCR) over failure to make a breakthrough in the case.

When the bench inquired whether he had traced the location where kidnapped persons had been kept, Mr Siraj said the people in the tribal region were so terrified that they were not giving any clue about kidnappers.

Mr Shahidullah said militants took kidnapped persons while travelling on foot for many days to reach North Waziristan through unfrequented mountainous tracks.

He stated that under the collective responsibility clause he had so far arrested 26 members of the concerned tribe.

He said his administration was in contact with Ansar Burney, who had told them that he would be visiting Peshawar to meet relatives of captives.

Chief security officer of Wapda Colonel Mateen requested the bench to give him more time in the case, saying he and other relevant officials of Wapda had been in contact with kidnappers and trying to persuade them to soften their demands.

The relatives of the kidnapped employees had sent an application to the chief justice a few weeks ago which was converted into a writ petition.

The said workers were kidnapped by militants on Aug 15 on their way to Tank district from the dam site in South Waziristan.

Kidnappers have demanded Rs150 million ransom and freedom of 17 militants by the government for safe release of kidnapped persons.