Nearly four months after he was kidnapped in Quetta, International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) worker Dr Khalil Rasjed Dale’s body was found decapitated and dumped along a roadside. Dale had been kidnapped in January at his high-security housing area of Chaman Housing Scheme, with the ICRC claiming that it never received any ransom demands for his release. It seems that the sole purpose of kidnapping him was to send a message to all foreigners in Pakistan that their lives are under constant threat. Although we do not know for sure who kidnapped Dale, it doesn’t really matter. All militants groups in Pakistan have the same ultimate goal: to create havoc and spread hate far and wide.
Already, the effects of Dale’s kidnapping and murder are being felt. Ever since he was abducted, the ICRC has severely curtailed its activities in Pakistan. That it should do so is tragic but understandable. Every foreigner in Pakistan, no matter what work he is involved in, knows that there is a mark on his or her head. Warren Weinstein, a development expert who had devoted much of his life to Pakistan, was kidnapped last year and is yet to be recovered. Even Pakistanis who are seen as ideologically ‘impure’ by militant groups are not safe, as Shahbaz Taseer’s family can testify.
The purpose behind these kidnappings is two-fold. First, capturing high profile targets gives huge publicity to militant groups and reminds everyone of how grave a threat they pose. Second, these kidnappings often lead to ransom demands which are usually paid, even though the Pakistani state and other countries deny ever paying ransom. Thus, these kidnappings are like a fundraising tool for the militants. The problem is that no amount of security will ever be foolproof, making it almost impossible to protect every person under threat. The only way to get rid of the problem is by cutting it off at the source. This means the military defeats the militant groups that are behind the kidnappings.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 1st, 2012.