ISLAMABAD /LAHORE: The abduction of American aid expert Warren Weinstein prompted US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to call her Pakistani counterpart Hina Rabbani Khar on Thursday to ‘express concern’ over the incident.
The foreign ministry confirmed the telephone conversation but did not offer any details. However, official sources told The Express Tribune that the Secretary of State made the telephone call primarily to discuss the kidnapping incident.
Secretary Clinton’s call was followed by US Ambassador Cameron Munter’s separate meetings with Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar and Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir on Wednesday to press the Pakistani authorities to ensure the early recovery of American aid expert.
Following her interaction with the US Secretary of State, Foreign Minister Khar also met Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani to brief him about the situation.
The issue took another twist on Thursday when Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah hinted that Weinstein might be a spy.
“We suspect that he was involved in intelligence gathering because we offered him a police escort, deployed police at his house, but he resisted our attempts,” the minister told Reuters. “It gives the impression that he did not want us to keep a check on his activities and that makes it suspicious.”
However, Weinstein’s’ friends in the aid community have strenuously denied rumours he was working for any intelligence agency. A US Embassy spokeswoman also denied it.
Weinstein was abducted in a pre-dawn raid on Saturday last, when up to eight unknown gunmen broke into his house in Lahore.
The police detained a number of people, including the security guards and Weinstein’s driver, for questioning after the kidnapping.
Police officials released the sketch of one of the suspects involved in the kidnapping of American citizen Warren Weinstein on Thursday.
The sketch was of a young man, around twenty years of age, with light stubble. It was made with the help of information collected from guards and the driver of the American since the CCTV camera of the house had been out of order for two years, said a police official.
SSP Investigation Lahore, Abdur Razzaque Cheema told The Express Tribune that the sketch of only one kidnapper could be made as the other seven wore masks.
He added that Lahore police was investigating the abduction of Warren, with the help of agencies, while details of phone calls of Weinstein were still being checked.
SP Investigation Model Town, Shoaib Khurram said that finger prints have been taken from the crime scene.
Police officials also revealed that they would carry out lie-detecting tests on security guards and driver of Weinstein.
“We have decided to conduct lie-detector tests on the security guards and the driver to verify whether their statements are true,” a senior police official was reported as saying.
“We will start their screening while we also interrogate the security company officials, responsible for his security,” said officials.
Weinstein, 70, country director for US-based consultancy JE Austin Associates, was abducted before dawn on Saturday.
Weinstein was due to return to the United States on Monday after his contract on private-sector development and economic growth in Pakistan ended. Washington revised its travel warning asserting that Americans throughout Pakistan have been kidnapped for ransom or for personal reasons. (With additional reporting from agencies)
Published in The Express Tribune, August 19th, 2011.