Details of how a Swiss couple, kidnapped by the Taliban more than eight months ago, was able to secure their freedom are still sketchy. We are still not sure if they were released by the Taliban or whether they somehow managed to escape from their captors. Both the Swiss and Pakistani governments have denied that ransom was paid, although that would seem to be the most logical explanation for their sudden release. Whatever the means and methods used, their recovery is cause for relief as they were able to escape relatively unscathed from their ordeal. At the same time, it is important to fight the kidnapping scourge, which the Taliban have employed to devastating effect for many years now, using their hostages to fill their coffers with ransom money and bring added publicity to their cause.
There is, however, some reason to believe that this release may have been secured by the payment of ransom money. Just a few days ago, Amir Malik, who was kidnapped in August 2010 when his father-in-law General Tariq Majeed was chairman joint chiefs of staff committee, was released after what some reports described as a ransom payment of many millions of rupees. The choice between filling the coffers of militant groups, who will only use the funds to launch further kidnappings and more terrorist attacks, and letting hostages die is a moral dilemma that is almost impossible to solve. What is undeniable is that the kidnapping strategy adopted by the Taliban has been an enormous success, giving them money, publicity and in some cases, even the release of their people. Unfortunately, no solution, short of inflicting a total defeat on the Taliban, readily presents itself.
On the other hand, these releases should provide some hope to the families of others who have been kidnapped by the militants. For many months now, Shahbaz Taseer, the son of slain governor Salmaan Taseer and Warren Weinstein, an American aid worker, have been abducted with no public information available about their status. With militant groups often selling those they have kidnapped to other militant groups and making demands that the state cannot meet, their fate has been up in the air. At least, now their families can have some reason to be optimistic.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 17th, 2012.
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