In a nail-biting race against time, the families of seven Pakistanis held hostage by Somali pirates and facing imminent death, must collected Rs160 million by April 20 for their safe release.
Citizen Police Liaison Committee (CPLC) chief Ahmed Chinoy announced an official fundraising campaign for the 22-member crew onboard the Malaysian-flagged MV Albedo at a press conference on Sunday. The MV Albedo has been in the possession of Somali pirates for the last 17 months. CPLC is collecting money for their rescue and has also opened accounts made in the names of the hostages’ families.
Chinoy said that $2.85 million is the total amount to be paid to the pirates as ransom. Total expenses, however, are $3.5 million, or Rs320 million – after accounting for the transfer of money to the pirates and bringing the ship back.
“We are raising money not only for 22 hostages but for 2,200 people living in Somalia. The pirates have to pay Somali suppliers for food and other goods which they have been delivering to the hostages. If they fail to do so, a bloody conflict can break out amongst them,” Chinoy said in his appeal.
The vessel is currently 50 kilometres off the coast of Somalia. Half of the Rs320 million is being raised by Pakistanis, while the rest is being raised by the Malaysian owner of the ship.
Meanwhile, family members of the hostages present at the conference recounted their ordeals in an effort to raise awareness about the issue. The wife of one hostage, Captain Jawaid Saleem, broke down as she recounted how “The worst time for me was when the pirates lied and said they had killed my husband. I was almost paralysed.” She added that the hostages were barely provided any sustenance on the ship.
Other families whose sole bread earners are being held hostage also had harrowing stories to share. The daughters of a sailor from Lyari, Faqeer Mohammad Soomro, have stopped going to school. “I can’t pay their fees. They don’t go to school now,” said Sugrah, his wife. “Don’t ask how we are living.”
Meanwhile, 14-month old Abdullah has never seen his father Mujtaba, the chief officer of the ship. “For eight months, his father did not know that he had a son,” said Neelum, his wife.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 2nd, 2012.
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