Pakistan’s forgotten envoy
It’s coming up to three months since Pakistan’s ambassador to Afghanistan, Tariq Azizuddin, disappeared from the border region of Khyber along with his driver and guard.
After weeks of silence, the ambassador appeared on a video aired over Al Arabiya satellite channel last month saying he had been kidnapped by Taliban militants. Surrounded by masked men with automatic weapons, he said he was suffering from health problems and appealed to the Pakistani government to comply with his captors’ demands which Pakistani media have reported relate to the release of several jailed militants.
And that is the last that has been heard so far. Indeed, only slightly less intriguing than the envoy’s disappearance has been the lack of any public attention to his plight right from the beginning. So much so that Azizuddin’s family last weekend issued a public appeal to the government to expedite efforts for his release. The family said they were greatly concerned there were no signs of an early and safe release of the envoy and his companions.
An ambassador, as the Pakistan Spectator said, symbolises the government and officials cannot afford to ignore the issue even if the media is focused elsewhere, all the more so after the emergence of a civilian government after nine years of military rule. How would another nation, for example the United States, act if its top diplomat was taken away and not heard from, for months ?
Perhaps the authorities are working quietly to secure the envoy’s release and any kind of statements might hamper the efforts. Some say Azizuddin’s fate has become tied to a peace deal that the Pakistan government was trying to strike with militant tribes in the frontier region which have since suffered a setback after Baitullah Mehsud, the head of the Tehrik-e-Taliban (Movement of Taliban) pulled out.
The Pakistan Taliban, though, denied any involvement in the envoy’s kidnapping when news first broke in February.