Fate of UN hostage in Pakistan hangs in balance

February 14th, 2009 - 11:06 pm ICT by IANS  

Islamabad, Feb 14 (DPA) The Pakistani government Saturday dismissed the demands of the captors of a UN official as unrealistic but expressed willingness to negotiate with them.

A separatist group in Pakistan’s southwestern Balochistan province set a 72-hour deadline Friday to kill John Solecki, the local head of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, if 141 women held in the torture cells of the country’s intelligence agencies were not freed.

The Baloch Liberation United Front (BLUF), a secular and nationalist guerrilla organisation seeking independence from Pakistan, also demanded the release of 6,000 more political prisoners.

“These are unrealistic demands,” said Pakistan’s top security official Rehman Malik. “We categorically deny that we have any ladies in our custody.”

Malik asked the families of any women believed to be in the custody of law enforcers to come forward and contact the authorities so that their release could be ensured.

He also denied there were any male political prisoners in Balochistan province.

“Whoever has done this (abducted Solecki) wants to defame the country,” Malik told reporters in Balochistan’s capital Quetta, where Solecki was snatched Jan 2 after unknown gunmen shot dead his driver.

Solecki appeared blindfolded in a video released by BLUF late Friday. “My message to the United Nations: I am not feeling well. I am sick. I am in trouble. Please help to resolve the problem soon, so I can gain my release,” he appealed.

Hundreds of people have died in nationalist insurgency in Balochistan since 2005 when rebels resorted to an armed campaign for greater share of the province’s oil and gas wealth.

A BLUF spokesman asked UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon Feb 7 to take notice of enslavement of Balochistan politically, culturally and socially by Pakistan, as the group claimed responsibility of the UN official’s kidnapping.

Malik said the authorities had some clues about Solecki’s captors and hoped that the UN official would be soon recovered safely. He declined to give any further details.

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