Three traders belonging to the Hindu community in Balochistan were kidnapped some 140 kilometres from the provincial capital Friday night.
The incident has sparked off protests against the government’s continued inability to provide any sort of safety to residents of the restive province. The minority group’s representative body’s protest was supported widely by local political parties and business associations.
Denesh Kumar, Retesh Kumar and Rathan Kumar were on their way back from attending a family function when they were intercepted by unidentified men at the Jiwa intersection of the RCD Highway in Surab tehsil, Kalat district.
Their van was pulled over by armed men who took the traders hostage at gunpoint, an official of the Balochistan Levies, Abdul Rahim, told The Express Tribune.
“The kidnappers came in two black four-wheel-drive vehicles and a white sedan,” he said. Though no one has approached the relatives of the abducted men, who all belong to one family, it is believed the men were being held for monetary gains. “It could be a case of kidnapping for ransom,” Abdul Rahim added.
Mukesh Kumar, the brother of one of the abducted men, Rathan, is convinced the men have been kidnapped for ransom and said the Hindu community is an easy target for criminals. He, however, added that, “no one had called to make any demands yet.”
Kumar said the traders had left Khuzdar at about five in the evening on Friday and were picked up an hour later. “The kidnappers coerced the driver of the van to get out of the vehicle, which they then drove away with.”
Kumar said the wagon was later found in the Surab area with flat tyres. He added that the women of the family were still in the vehicle, but the kidnappers had whisked the three men away.
Following the incident, a complete shutter-down strike was observed in Kalat on Saturday.
The call was made by the Hindu Panchayat and supported by the Shaheri Action Committee, Traders Union, Kalat, along with all major political parties. All commercial activity remained suspended as shops and markets were closed throughout the day.
Traders and members of the Hindu community also blocked main roads in protest and chanted slogans against the government and police for failing to protect citizens. Demanding the government to employ all available resources for the safe recovery of the abducted men, protesters threatened to prolong their demonstrations otherwise.
The Quetta-Karachi RCD Highway was blocked for nearly five hours in Kalat with a large number of vehicles stranded for the same reason. As a result, Nato supplies were also disrupted.
There has been a marked increase in kidnapping for ransom cases in Surab Tehsil, the hometown of a provincial home minister, in recent years.
Hindus are seen as easy targets. The Mahraj of Kali Mandir, the historic Hindu temple, was also kidnapped from the same region earlier, but was released after a ransom of Rs8 million was paid for his return.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 29th, 2012.