After a two-week kidnapping ordeal, the owner of the popular Mr Books bookstore in Islamabad was finally freed by the police in a raid near Rawalpindi. Although now free, his kidnapping was facilitated by a young woman, who drew him out of his bookshop thereby delivering him straight into the hands of his captors. It would not be wise to extrapolate too much from one incident, but the use of a girl in a crime is very troubling and should it be repeated, it will only lead to a society where no one trusts each other despite age and gender.
Then there is the fact that the kidnappers demanded anywhere from Rs25-100 million in ransom, according to different media reports. Since he was freed without his family having to drum up a ransom they couldn’t afford, the shopkeeper is one of the more fortunate victims of the kidnapping epidemic that seems to have hit the country. In most cases, families either have to come up with the ransom amount or face the loss of their loved ones. The success rate of the police in apprehending kidnappers and freeing their victims is also abysmally low.
The wave of kidnappings that has hit the country is not confined to a particular area and is spread all over. One of the biggest worries is that the Taliban are employing kidnappings for ransom as a fundraising tool. This has especially been the case in Karachi and Peshawar, where wealthy families have been targeted. In Balochistan, kidnappings for ransom are targeting the vulnerable Hindu community, whose members tend to be well-off because they are traditionally traders and businessmen but whose plight rarely catches the attention of the authorities. In a way, though, it doesn’t matter if those behind the kidnappings are hardened militants or just criminal gangs. Ultimately, it is the responsibility of the state to secure the well-being of its citizens, no matter who is threatening them.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 24th, 2012.
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