Investigators have sought the federal government’s assistance for an early release of the kidnapped Swiss couple who is allegedly in custody of the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).
The couple was abducted last month while on their way to Quetta at Qilla Saifullah on N-70 Highway. Soon after the kidnapping, the Taliban allegedly shifted the couple to the Shamalzai area of the North Waziristan Agency.
“We have sought Islamabad’s help to trace the whereabouts of Divid Oliver Och and Daniela Widmer, whose lives are in danger now,” said Zohb Division Commissioner Muhammad Ikhtiar Bengulzai.
“We have requested the federal as well as the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa government to engage intelligence agencies to trace the location of the Swiss hostages,” he told The Express Tribune.
“It is the fault of the Loralai police because they let the couple go without handing them over to the Levies in the rural areas”, Bengulzai added.
“We have suspended the police officials who showed negligence in this case,” he added. He said the couple’s vehicle (a camping van) was in custody of the district administration after it was found parked near Minara, a village some 15 kilometres away from the town of Loralai.
Swiss officials have remained in regular contact with the district administration throughout the month regarding the kidnapping.
Regarding TTP’s claim that the couple was in their custody, an investigator, on the condition of anonymity, said the option could not be ruled since militant outfits like the Quetta Shura – an ancillary organisation of the Aghan Taliban – had been allegedly conducting many operations in Balochistan. However, the existence of Quetta Shura in Balochistan is denied by both the government of Pakistan and the Balochistan administration.
The commissioner, however, said, “We will confirm the couple’s whereabouts, shortly.”
The TTP after kidnapping the couple had demanded a negotiation comprising the exchange of the Swiss prisoners with Dr Aafia Siddiqui, who is jailed in the US. However, the Swiss Embassy in Islamabad has ruled out reports of negotiations with any militant organisation at any level.
“We are only in contact with Pakistani officials for the release of our citizens,” said a Swiss Embassy spokesperson in Islamabad.
Police officials interrogating the case said that the couple was travelling from Dera Ghazi Khan when they registered themselves at a police checkpoint called Jungle Sirk. They wanted to leave for Quetta the next day (July 1) when some unidentified masked persons kidnapped them on gunpoint at a small village known as Killi Nigah.
Loralai Member National Assembly Sardar Muhammad Israr Tareen said he will extend his support to the law enforcement agencies. Zafarullah Baloch, a senior official and former secretary of tribal affairs, said: “We are making all efforts to recover the couple by engaging with the tribal leaders of the area.
“We are in regular contact with officials of the Pakistani foreign office and Swiss officials,” he said.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 28th, 2011.
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