MV Albedo crew: Freed sailors savour sweet homecoming

Published: August 3, 2012
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Captain Jawaid Saleem, who was among the seven released hostages, reunited with his family in Karachi. PHOTO: MOHAMMAD NOMAN/ EXPRESS

Captain Jawaid Saleem, who was among the seven released hostages, reunited with his family in Karachi. PHOTO: MOHAMMAD NOMAN/ EXPRESS

KARACHI: After nearly two years, seven Pakistani crew members of merchant ship MV Albedo were reunited with their loved ones in an emotional homecoming in Karachi on Thursday.

The men, part of the 22 crew onboard the Malaysian-flagged vessel, had been held hostage by Somali pirates since November 26, 2010 and were released on Wednesday after a ransom of $1.1 million was paid by Pakistani families and donors. The rest of the crew – seven Bengalis, six Sri Lankans, an Iranian and an Indian – is still held aboard the ship, currently 50 kilometres off Somalia.

The released Pakistan crew members are Captain Jawaid Saleem, Chief Officer Mujtaba, Third officer Raheel Anwar, Fourth Engineer Zulfiqar Ali, and sailors Kashif Naveed, Faqeer Mohammad Soomro, and Ahsan Islam.

While Saleem, Soomro and Ali belong to Karachi, the rest of them belong to other parts of the country. Naveed is from Jhelum, Islam from Dir, Anwar from Faisalabad and Mujtaba from Mansehra.

Grand ceremony

Families gathered at the Governor House, which was adorned in hues of green and white, where a grand ceremony was held to receive the crew amidst cheers and sighs of relief.

Before the arrival of the crew, families waited in anticipation and expressed their delight, as Captain Jawaid Saleem’s daughter Mishal put it: “Today is our Eid.”

Chief Officer of MV Albedo Mujtaba’s daughter, Salwa, ran around excitedly saying: “I won’t let papa go on the ship again.”

The families also spoke of their agony over the past two years. “The most horrible moment for me was when the pirates lied to me that they had killed my husband,” said Shenaz, Captain Jawaid’s wife.

Also at the occasion was Captain Wasi, the captain of MV Suez, which was also captured by the Somali pirates and released last June. Talking to The Express Tribune, he said he continued to suffer from trauma of being held by the abusive pirates.

Amidst a live marching band, the crew finally walked into the governor house. They were flanked by the Sindh chief minister, governor, Sharmila Farooqi, MQM leaders Raza Haroon and Babar Ghauri.

Patriotic songs played in the background, as the crew members and families embraced each other.

The frail-looking Captain Jawaid Saleem said: “I am very happy to be back in my home country. This is the first time in the history of piracy that Pakistan emerged as the only country which safely had its hostages released safe and sound.”

“‘I can raise my head proudly because of my country. My only mission is to serve my country,” he further said, adding that other hostages wanted Pakistan to help them. He went on to thank the president and the Sindh governor.

Describing his experience, he said they kept him and two other Pakistani hostages in a jungle for three months. “We slept on rocks, and there was no shelter; only flour, and macaroni to eat. But we used to serve the pirates first.”

Chief Officer Mujtaba, who met his son Abdullah for the first time since he was born just a few days after the vessel was captured said, “I can’t describe how happy I am to see my son.”

Sindh Governor Dr Ishratul Ebad said that initially, the pirates had demanded $10 million. “There were tense negotiations. All countries were reached out to, but got no response except from Pakistan.”

Sindh Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah said that the released crew has received a new lease of life, and congratulated President Asif Ali Zardari as well as MQM chief Altaf Hussain.

Details remain murky

Meanwhile, officials remained reluctant to share details of the exact amount paid as ransom to the Somali pirates.

The pirates had demanded Rs320 million for the release of the hostages in April.

While Pakistan agreed to pay Rs160 million, the rest was to be paid by the Malaysian owner of the ship and later by the Malaysian government.

However, retracting from his earlier statement, CPCL Chief Ahmed Chinoy denied that Rs160 million was paid by Pakistan.

Speaking to The Express Tribune from Dubai before the crew left for Karachi, he said that $1.1 million (Rs103 million) was paid as ‘expenditure money’ – the money the pirates had spent on the hostages’ food, medication and moving them back and forth from land to sea.

He added that Thursday was a historic day. “It was a long and difficult journey. The families contacted us a year ago.”

Published in The Express Tribune, August 3rd, 2012.

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Reader Comments (18)

  • QQ
    Aug 3, 2012 - 7:50AM

    nice to see happy faces

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  • Aug 3, 2012 - 9:25AM

    Congrats to the families :)

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  • The Pointer
    Aug 3, 2012 - 9:32AM

    Welcome Home, your beloved PAKISTAN. Hope the other hostages also get released and reunite with their families soon.

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  • Aug 3, 2012 - 11:33AM

    Conratulations to the families and ofcourse MQM for bringing the kidnapees back home. Keep up the Good work.

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  • Uza Syed
    Aug 3, 2012 - 12:25PM

    This is great and I’m very happy for the crew to be back home and with their families and what makes me even happier is the way we all stood behind and with our people. That’s how we always must be, stand together in solidarity with eachother no matter what.

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  • Muhammad
    Aug 3, 2012 - 12:27PM

    may be not really a failed state after all??

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  • kumail
    Aug 3, 2012 - 12:47PM

    oh its just awesome to see these sailors back home safely……

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  • watch tower
    Aug 3, 2012 - 12:59PM

    Where is the rest of the crew? still with pirates? How sad they have been abandoned by their captain, very untraditional, the least i can say.

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  • Zak
    Aug 3, 2012 - 2:51PM

    Congratulations to the family. Very well done to the Sindh governor for yet another achievement and he has shown that he is clean and responsible with public money and he is serious about saving lives. Genius!

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  • Parvez
    Aug 3, 2012 - 3:31PM

    Full credit goes to all those involved in making this happen.

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  • Noman
    Aug 3, 2012 - 6:01PM

    @watch tower: There had to an absurd comment like this one!! You have no tdea living in your own cacoon as to what entails in a situation like this so please keep quiet!!Recommend

  • B+
    Aug 3, 2012 - 7:15PM

    Job well done Governer Sindh and his team…Its really nice to see happy families…its a blessing of Ramazan…Pakistan Zindabad..

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  • Javid
    Aug 3, 2012 - 11:35PM

    Captain Jawaid Saleem you should be shame of yourself for being so selfish and abandoning the other crew members who was less fortunate and not freed.

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  • Ayesha Khoosa
    Aug 4, 2012 - 2:21AM

    Good Job Governor, You are the MAN. Congrats…

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  • Abdullah
    Aug 4, 2012 - 2:49AM

    where is our Pak Navy. I seen in past that rich countries navy making commando action on these somali pirates and freeing their citizens but not paying ransom but why we are paying them. I think we have to dipatch our navy and SSG force in international water to take care of our ships and citizens who are passing near soamlia just like other countries have navy there and they are helping them when the prirates attack them

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  • Abdullah
    Aug 4, 2012 - 2:52AM

    we have to dipatch our navy and SSG force in international water like other countries to take care of our ships and citizens who are passing near soamlia just like other countries have navy there and they are helping them when the prirates attack them. instead of paying ransom we have to bust these somali pirates just like china and other countries are doing. i think like this way our SSG commandos will get more training. Pak Army we need you in international water near somalia to protect pakistan citizens. Long live Pak army

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  • Raheem Butt
    Aug 4, 2012 - 6:08AM

    Well done Governor Sindh and team..about Captain..he is not responsible for ship anymore….there own governments or people should make some arrangements….they didnt show any support for there people..Malaysia is well developed country….India is country with more than billion population….last time we got free everyone on mvsuez..this time we tried but they only released Pakistani because they responded..anyway Welldone Pakistanis atleast country saw some happiness..

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  • Rida
    Aug 4, 2012 - 6:19AM

    @watchtower @javid when you guys are done satisfying your shallow egos by pointing fingers at other do come out of your little shells and try to step into the captains shoes. try staying away from your family for 2 days forget 2 years and try to imagine what it would feel like to just be told you shall never return home! Salute the stars of your country before you raise your fingers on them. People like YOU are the reason this country is going to the dumps! For the first time im proud of the Pakistani government for bringing back even half the crew safely. And before you blabber about what the captain should or should not have done go enroll yourself and your family into the army…the country needs your sacrifice not your loose talk.

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