[UPDATED] BLUF claims responsibility for JOHN SOLECKI’s kidnaping
A relatively new organization calling itself the Baloch Liberation United Front (BLUF) has accepted responsibility for John Solecki’s kidnapping. The organization is demanding the release of around 6000 missing Baloch people who have been arrested by the Pakistani army intelligence agencies along with 141 Baloch women.
” We demand a resolution of the Baloch issue via Geneva Conventions,” said Shaik Baloch, a spokesman of the BLUF.
Solecki, the Balochistan head of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), was kidnapped on February 2 when he was on his way to the office located in Quetta’s Chaman Housing Society. His driver, Syed Hashim, was killed by the kidnappers.
” The reason it took us five days to claim responsibility was to make sure that we reach at a safe place before claiming responsibility,” said the spokesman: ” We are at a safe place now”.
The spokesman said his organization had no links with other Baloch armed groups but supported their cause and it would continue its operations in the future. ” If the UN does not meet our demands, we will kill its official and the onus would lie on the UN itself,” he warned.
The spokesman said John was absolutely fine. They could kill him at the first place but did not do so because they are peaceful people struggling for a just cause. However, if the UN takes their demands lightly then they will be obliged to kill the UN official.
“John is safe and sound in our custody,” said Mir Shahik Baloch, the spokesman of the BLUF, who telephoned various newspaper offices in Quetta via satellite phone from an undisclosed location. “We have kidnapped John to highlight the plight of the Baloch people in Pakistan who are being treated by the State worse than slaves. If the UN does not intervene and ensure the release of 6000 missing Baloch people, including 141 women and resolve the Baloch issue according to the Geneva conventions, we will kill John,” warned the spokesman.
Balochistan, Pakistan’s largest and resource-rich province has been going through a deadly insurgency for the past four years where the ethnic majority, the Balochs, are fighting against the federation of Pakistan for maximum autonomy and ownership on their vast natural resources. The Baloch have been accusing the Pakistan government of using the American weapons, which were given to the former to fight the war against terrorism, to crush the Baloch insurgency.
Soon after the abduction of the American UN official, speculations went on the direction of the Baloch insurgents and the Talian operating in the area. But both the groups, including the top-most Baloch armed group, the Baloch Liberation Army (BLA) disassociated itself from the kidnaping of the US citizen.
It is the first time the BLUF has emerged on the surface.
In order to establish the existence of hitherto unknown organization, I spoke to Mr. Bibarg Baloch, the spokesman of the Baloch Liberation Army (BLA), he said, “ this organization, I can confirm, does exist.” He did not give any other details about this organization. This is the only piece of information published in the newspapers today.
The entire day across Balochistan went discussing the Baloch Liberation United Front (BLFU). There is a mixed reaction. Many are unwilling to buy the argument that the Baloch could kidnap an American national. Because one does not see similar instances in the past. Those in a state of disbelief, contend that it is a deliberate attempt by the state of Pakistan to
a) Declare the Baloch as terrorists across the world in return of their democratic struggle for the just right of Baloch ownership on their natural resources.
b) Cause a set-back to the ongoing trail of two Baloch leaders, Hairbayar Marri and Faiz Baloch who are currently facing terrorism charges in a London court.
c) To provide a justification for the establishment of more military check-posts, cantonments and increase the number of troops in Balochistan province.
d) To present the Baloch fighters as even more brutal than the Taliban.
On the other hand, then you have the other group of elated young people who are celebrating the emergence of a new Baloch armed group. In the restive province of Balochistan, these armed groups have always been seen as a ‘ hope’ in the midst of ‘hopelessness’. Therefore, those willing to agree that the BLUF does exist and it has carried out the kidnapping of the American national contend:
a) The Baloch armed movement is rapidly going in the hands of educated middle class Baloch. Surely, this new organization has decided to come up with a better strategy to fight the Baloch war. Before launching their activities, they must have agreed that targeting policemen and individual Punjabis is unlikely to work any more. Therefore, why should the organization not go for a ‘Big Fish’ so that the attention of the international community is gained towards the Baloch issue.
b) When the Baloch Republican Army (BRA) rose, many people expressed similar feelings. They said it was the intelligence agencies that are trying to overshadow the BLA. Later on, it became evident that the BLA and BRA shared the collective destination though operated separately.
c)As the argument goes on, a younger Baloch was telling me at the Quetta Press club, ‘C’mon. Stop telling the Sarmarchars [the freedom fighters] what is good for the Baloch cause and what is wrong.” In the past, when the BLA ‘target killed’ a journalist in Quetta, another reputed journalist, Nargis Baloch of Daily Intekhab, wrote that the BLA should disown the killing. It did not do so because the BLA knew what it should do and what it should not.
d) The Baloch armed groups can go to any extent to protect their fatherland [there is no concept of motherland in Baloch society, by the way]. In 2004, three Chinese engineers were also killed and similar attacks were carried out in Hub area as well. Therefore, one does not need to be stunned if the Baloch fighters kidnap and American.
REACTION OF THE UNITED NATIONS
After the acceptance of responsibility for the kidnapping, the BLUF has surely added to the concerns of the UN officials. In the wake of this development, the Islamabad office of the United Nations has issued a press release. The PR states:
Islamabad – One week after his abduction, the United Nations remains deeply concerned over the fate of the UN Refugee Agency’s (UNHCR) representative in Quetta, Pakistan, John Solecki. UN is seeking further information on a group called Balochistan Liberation United Front, which claimed yesterday through the local media of holding Solecki.
Solecki was abducted on 2 February, and his driver, Syed Hashim, was tragically killed. The search for clues to his whereabouts continues, including the issuance of a public message asking anyone with information on Solecki.
UNHCR is particularly concerned about Solecki’s health as he has a medical condition requiring regular medication. Delay in his release will only contribute to the deterioration of his physical state.
John Solecki has worked tirelessly for nearly two years providing humanitarian assistance to some 400,000 Afghan refugees in Balochistan province. He has also been in the forefront of relief efforts for Pakistanis affected by floods and earthquakes in the region. With his openness and good humor, Solecki is much appreciated and respected by refugees and local communities alike.
The unknown circumstances behind his abduction hampers the delivery of vital humanitarian aid in the volatile western region of Pakistan, where the UN workers are now required to take extra security precautions.
John Solecki has worked for UNHCR since 1991, serving refugees in several countries. UNHCR is an apolitical, humanitarian organization based in Geneva, Switzerland, with a mandate to protect and assist the world’s most vulnerable people. Its 6,000 staff currently work in more than 110 countries, helping more than 30 million refugees, displaced people and others – often in remote and difficult places. Since it began work in 1951, it has helped some 50 million refugees worldwide to rebuild their lives.
John’s family, colleagues and many friends in the region appeal for his immediate release without harm.
Pakistan’s reputed English language newspaper today quoted the Balochistan police Chief Asif Nawaz saying that he was hopeful that John would be released. Here is the story from Dawn:
Police hopeful of freeing UN official
By Saleem Shahid
Monday, 09 Feb, 2009 | 09:40 AM PST |
QUETTA, Feb 8: Police said on Sunday to have found a clue to the kidnapping of a UN official after the Baloch Liberation United Front had claimed responsibility for it.
“We got a clue about the kidnapping of John Solecki, UN refugee agency’s representative in Quetta, after a previously unknown Baloch separatist group claimed responsibility,” Inspector General of Balochistan Police Asif Nawaz Waraaich told Dawn.
He said that investigating agencies were earlier working on different lines, but now they had got a direction.
He said that it had been established that Mr Solecki was alive and the kidnappers would not harm him because they have come up with demands. “The kidnappers wanted to internationalise their cause.”
“I am very hopeful about freeing the UNHCR official,” Mr Waraaich said.
Mr Solecki was kidnapped and his driver Syed Hashim was killed when gunmen ambushed his vehicle on Feb 2.
Meanwhile, the UNHCR said in a statement that the United Nations remained deeply concerned about Mr Solecki.
“The UNHCR is particularly concerned about Mr Solecki’s health as he has a medical condition requiring regular medication,” the statement said, adding a delay in his release would only “contribute to the deterioration of his physical state”.
Mr Solecki’s “family, colleagues and many friends in the region appeal for his immediate release without harm,” it said.