Foreign hostages present appealing target for militants


By Farman Nawaz Source:Global Times Published: 2015-6-1 20:23:01

http://www.globaltimes.cn/content/924767.shtml

The video of a Chinese tourist kidnapped last year in Pakistan has been released by Pakistani Taliban at a time when the Pakistan army’s military operation in the North Waziristan is drawing near an end and the Pakistani government has started hanging militants in revenge for the school massacre on December 16.

The history of foreign hostages in Pakistan starts from the kidnapping and beheading of Jewish-American journalist Daniel Pearl in January 2002.

The foreigners seized in Pakistan are mostly engineers, journalists, aid workers and tourists. The kidnappers usually demand either the release of Taliban prisoners or ransom money, and mostly these ill-fated hostages are killed.

This threat has been growing after the start of military operations as the militants have shifted to settled areas and they need funds for terrorist activities.

Keeping in mind the good relations between Pakistan and China, it might be possible that Pakistan will do its best to get the hostage released. However, bargaining with militants will lead to the release of prisoners, which will encourage terrorists.

The terrorists target foreigners in order to reduce foreign funding to the government.

In October 2004 when Pakistani forces tried to rescue two Chinese engineers near Pak-Afghan border, one of the two engineers was killed during the operation. Pakistani forces may be able to rescue hostages, but not without considerable risk.

In 2013, the Taliban warned the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) government of dire consequences if it carried out planned executions. The recent video may also target the upcoming executions.

Many foreigners in Pakistan are careless about their security. Since 9/11, the security situation in Pakistan has been very fragile. The local rich are also worried about their safety in the context of frequent kidnappings.

It is not known how the Chinese tourist entered Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province and reached a very insecure locality. The local administration was unaware of his entry into this region. A lack of self-protection and safety awareness is one of the factors that lead to such incidents. Local Pakistani administrations and even the ordinary people of Pakistan respect foreigners, especially Chinese. This tragic incident could be avoided if he had informed the local civil management. They would either have not allowed him to enter the region or provide him security to pass through that area.

Being exposed to militant threats, Pakistan too must keep an eye on foreign visitors and their activities because when they are kidnapped, the country’s international reputation will be damaged, which is not an encouraging sign for foreign investment and relations.

After the announcement of the corridor projects, it is very important that Pakistan should tighten the security of routes and the workers and engineers engaged in these projects.

The kidnapping of foreigners is more appealing for the militants, as it becomes very difficult for the Pakistani authorities to show indifference in such cases.

The author is a Pakistani columnist and runs an Urdu Weekly newspaper in Pakistan.farmannawaz@gmail.com

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