According to a report in this newspaper, there has been an alarming increase in incidents of kidnapping for ransom over the last few years, with more than 450 such cases being registered in each of the last two years. This is obviously a law-and-order issue, which the various police forces across the country must tackle but, even more than that, it is also a national security concern. It has always been feared that militants, particularly in Peshawar and Karachi, have been using kidnappings for ransom as a particularly macabre form of fundraising. Even now, over a year after they were kidnapped, Shahbaz Taseer, son of slain Punjab governor Salmaan Taseer, and Warren Weinstein, a US aid worker, are still being held, presumably because a high enough ransom hasn’t been paid to secure their release.
Kidnappings carried out by militants aren’t just about the money. Often, they will let go off their captives only if the government releases incarcerated militants. This is done quietly so that the government doesn’t have to admit that it negotiates with terrorists. Obviously, this is not a strategy the government should be employing. If abductors know that they will never be hunted down but rather given money for their crime, it will only lead to a further increase in kidnappings for ransom.
Dealing with abductions for ransom has to be made a priority by the government because they tend to target the already-vulnerable minority communities. In Balochistan, the Hindu community has been particularly affected by abductions to the extent that many of its members have left the province. This community has been targeted, both because a lot of Hindus are traders and thus have the money to pay ransom and also because the government is less likely to pursue kidnapping cases if the victims are part of a minority group. Such stances are detrimental to the country’s progress and the government needs to evolve a comprehensive strategy to chase down abductors.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 27th, 2012.
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