The Pakistani ambassador to Afghanistan has disappeared on the road between Peshawar and Kabul, and the Pakistanis suspect that the Taliban has kidnapped him. Tariq Azizuddin failed to show on schedule in Kabul, and no one has seen him or his driver since their departure. The Taliban apparently want Dadullah back:
Pakistan’s ambassador to Afghanistan has been abducted in a troubled tribal border region just hours after a senior Taliban commander was arrested.
Tariq Azizuddin, the Pakistani envoy to Kabul, disappeared with his driver while travelling the Khyber Pass on the road between the Pakistani city of Peshawar and the Afghan border.
“We know that he was coming from Peshawar to Kabul and we lost contact with him. We are trying our best to find out what happened,” said a spokesman for the Pakistani embassy in Kabul.
Tribal militants may have abducted the ambassador. Rasool Khan Wazir, the chief administrative official in Khyber, said security forces had seen the envoy’s car driven at speed through a checkpost with “local people sitting in the front seat”.
Dadullah got captured in a shootout earlier in the day. He was wounded in the firefight and is listed in critical condition at the hospital where he has been detained. If he dies, Azizuddin may not survive his kidnapping. Of course, releasing Dadullah under these circumstances could kill him, too. Dadullah may not want to go, at least not yet.
It won’t be the first time the Taliban have ransomed hostages for Dadullah’s release. The Pakistanis released him and four other Taliban terrorists in exchange for Italian journalist Daniele Mastrogiacomo less than a year ago. The terrorists have played this game before, and why not? Despite the West’s oft-stated policy of non-negotiation with terrorists, European nations have routinely paid ransoms in both cash and terrorist releases.
This time the Taliban decided on a higher-level capture to gain Dadullah’s release, but they may have miscalculated. They won’t have the pressure of a foreign government leaning on Pervez Musharraf — and the kidnapping of a Pakistani ambassador may end the recent push towards truce in Swat and the Waziristans. Musharraf may be more inclined to press forward with his military for a solution than to allow the Taliban to control the critical roads between Pakistan and Afghanistan.
UPDATE: Azizuddin has some company:
Two employees of Pakistan’s atomic energy agency have been abducted in the country’s restive north-western region abutting the Afghan border, police say.
The technicians went missing on the same day as Pakistan’s ambassador to Afghanistan, Tariq Azizuddin, was reportedly abducted in the same region.
They were surveyors and geologists, not nuclear physicists, so the two won’t give them any nuclear technology or insight. Still, the trend says that the Taliban have decided to stack the odds in their favor for a swap.