There is a tendency to assume that very American who gets into trouble has a CIA connection. With Raymond Davis, that did indeed turn out to be the case, but there is no reason to believe that aid worker Warren Weinstein was anything but what he claimed to be. It is too early to know if his abduction from his residence in Lahore was a case of kidnapping for ransom or if the motive was political, but that has not stopped the whispers. In either case, that question should now be moot; finding Weinstein is the priority.
As part of his work with JE Austin, Weinstein was helping import dairy chillers for farms in the rural areas of Pakistan. Like many other American aid workers in Pakistan, he was working on programmes for USAID, which could be a possible motive for his kidnapping. The danger now is that vital foreign aid programmes will grind to a halt as foreigners fear coming to the country and those who are already here flee in droves. This is especially true since Weinstein was living in the affluent Model Town area. Weinstein’s abductors need to be arrested and he must be recovered safely as soon as possible so that foreigners start feeling more secure here. The initial signs are not good as the police already seem to be scapegoating Weinstein for his own kidnapping. They claim that Weinstein should have registered himself with the police in Lahore, although how that would have prevented the kidnapping is not clear. Meanwhile, not only will every other US aid worker in Pakistan feel unsafe, they will also believe that their reasons for being in the country are being scrutinised. Here the fault lies with both the US and the Pakistan governments. Too many people, allegedly here for humanitarian reasons, have been found to do a bit of freelance spy work on the side. The worst example of this was the fake US vaccination programme that was actually taking DNA samples to locate Osama bin Laden. Section of the media loves nothing more than to cry CIA at every American. Weinstein, it seems, was caught between these competing narratives.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 17th, 2011.