What should have been a fun-filled outing during the Eid break for some 60 small boys who ventured out from their homes in the Gharki area of the Bajaur Agency has instead turned into a nightmare for them and their families. The boys, it appears, accidentally ventured across the border into Afghanistan, which is poorly demarcated in most tribal areas, and were kidnapped allegedly by Qari Saqib of the Ziaur Rehman faction of the Taliban, which has been known to carry out attacks in Pakistan. The motives behind the abduction of the children seems somewhat unclear, but the conjecture is that it may be linked to the fact that tribesmen from the area to which the boys belonged had opposed the Taliban. While victims aged under 10 years were allowed back, some 30 youngsters remain in captivity.
There is also some lack of clarity on precisely what is being done to secure the release of the boys. Officials on the Afghan side of the border claim they know nothing of the incident; Interior Minister Rehman Malik says the release of some of the boys has been secured through Pakistan’s efforts. But the credibility of the minister is not high, and it is possible this may be a reference to the younger children who were freed. It is unclear for now if there has been any official contact with the kidnappers at all.
We hope that every effort will be made to recover the boys especially since they are poor and belong to families lacking influence. The incident, all the more so since it comes on the occasion of Eid, goes also to expose the ruthlessness of the Taliban and the fact that they will apparently stop at nothing to expand their message of hate. Pakistan and Afghan officials need to work together to ensure the boys return to their homes as quickly as possible so that the misery of their families and the undoubted terror of the victims themselves can end without any further delay.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 5th, 2011.