Landi Kotal: ‘Missing’ envoy untraced
ISLAMABAD/LANDI KOTAL: Security forces have launched a massive search along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border for the missing, reportedly kidnapped, Pakistani Ambassador to Kabul Tariq Azizuddin. “The search operation has started in Tirah Valley, but we are not sure if Mr Azizuddin has been abducted by the Taliban,” Interior Ministry spokesman Brig (retd) Javed Iqbal Cheema said on Tuesday.
When asked if the government would agree if the Taliban linked the release of the ambassador with that of their commander Mullah Mansoor Dadullah arrested in Balochistan on Monday, the spokesman said “I cannot comment on presumptions.” He added that the Foreign Office would be able to spell out the government’s stand if such a situation arose.
The spokesman said the government had no specific information about the kidnappers. However, he said, the security forces were searching for the ambassador in Tirah Valley where he had gone missing on Monday.
Meanwhile, political authorities in the tribal area were clueless on Tuesday about the whereabouts of the ambassador.
An official quoting local people said that the ambassador’s vehicle was last seen in Mastek, about 50 kilometres west of Jamrud sub-division, adjacent to the Tirah Valley.
The tribal administration has sealed all exit routes and deployed the Khasadar force in the area. The authorities also sought the help of tribal elders in efforts to find the diplomat.
Some officials ruled out the possibility of militants’ involvement in the incident and said a group of local criminals might be behind the kidnapping. “We suspect the involvement of some local Afridis and Afghans,” a political administration official said.
The region’s deputy administrator Ahmad Khan Orakzai, who led the search operation, told Dawn that they had conducted the operation in an area stretching from Ali Masjid to Zakhakhel, but without any success.
“We searched all the routes and localities in Jamrud where the ambassador’s vehicle was last seen, but did not find any clue,” said Mr Orakzai.
He said he feared that the kidnappers might have shifted the diplomat to Bara sub-division or the adjacent Frontier Region of Darra Adamkhel.
Sources said the Fata Secretariat had earlier expressed concern over the frequent travels by the ambassador on the Torkham highway without an official escort.
They said the secretariat had advised the Foreign Office in November last year to urge Mr Azizuddin to inform the local administration before travelling through the Khyber Pass for security reasons, but the advice was ignored.
They said the authorities might enforce the territorial and collective responsibility clause of the Frontier Crimes Regulation and detain tribesmen of the area.
Mr Azizuddin went missing in the Khyber tribal agency close to the Afghan border on Monday.
Tirah Valley is a vast area which was once considered a stronghold of pro–Taliban militants. Mr Azizuddin was going to Kabul from Peshawar by road when he disappeared. He was accompanied by a driver and a gunman.
The Khyber Agency is a busy trade route. The US and Nato forces frequently use it to send reinforcements and supplies to their bases in Afghanistan.
The complete article can be found at Dawn News.