Pakistani news channel Dunya News ran a video of John Solecki issued by the Baloch Liberation United Front (BLUF) giving a 72-hour ultimatum for their demands to be met. John, the TV said, was complaining of bad health and pleading for help.
The video shows John blindfolded with a green piece of cloth. He seemed very exhausted and appealed for help. He said he was not feeling well and the demanded of his captors’ demands to be met in return of his release.
The video has been recorded very cleverly and professionally. It has a close-up shot of the kidnapped official and does not show anything in the background. The viewer cannot easily figure out about the atmosphere in the surroundings of the victim. One cannot understand how many people are around him. Even the background walls are unclear. It is impossible to say how large the room is, what it is made of. No weapons or/and sharp instruments are shown in the video.
He really didn’t look like the John I had met in the past. I had twice met him in a mutual friends’ room at Quetta office of the UNHCR where he would come out of his office slouching. But his voice was really thunderous when he said in a friendly typical American style “Hi there.!!!!”. I felt like crying when I saw John so helpless this evening . I always thought John could be jaded like anything but his voice would always be very confident.
While you can view this footage, in the background you can hear the views of a senior Pakistani political analyst, Haroon Rashid, on this kidnapping episode. He said “The main problem is that Balochistan has been treated unfairly by Pakistan. Three provinces of the country are collectively mistreating the Baloch. The Baloch leaders, who keep singling out the Punjab province for being responsible for their backwardness, should have the moral courage to say that Sindh and NWFP are equally responsible for their under-development. The only reason for the silence of the Baloch nationalists is that they do not want to annoy the nationalist leaders of the remaining two provinces.
“National resources should be distributed among the provinces while considering multiple indicators such as their area, population and backwardness. But Balochistan is only given a share in the national resource distribution solely on the basis of its population [which is only 3% of Pakistan while the province accounts for 43% of Pakistan’s total area]. This is unfair. It is in fact the point where one finds a major fault in our Balochistan policy.
“The people of Balochistan are never allowed to form their own government. One could say that elections were held across Pakistan but this is not true for Balochistan. Secondly, our people in Balochistan are annoyed. Their minds and hearts need to be conquered by imparting love and justice among them. May God give the Baloch leaders the courage to admit that this is India, not the BLF (sic), which is carrying out these operations in Balochistan. In fact, India gives them [the armed groups] money and sets their goals.
It is the time we treated the Baloch with justice. We have alienated them. Military operations were carried out against them during the governments of General Ayub Khan, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and Pervez Musharraf.
“There is one clear solution: We should apologize to the Baloch people for the past military operations and compensate them for the injustices done to them in the past. The people of NWFP [North Western Frontier Province] are displeased with the government for fighting ‘America’s war on terror’. In Sawat, the local tribesmen have revolted due to lack of institutional justice. They want the revival of the old judicial system that should provide them speedy justice.
“Obviously, India and Afghanistan would take advantage of the prevailing situation in our country. The intelligence agencies of India and Afghanistan collaborate and operate as secretly as too affable sisters do. Such situations then provide other world players an opportunity to meddle in Pakistan’s internal affairs. The Americans should take notice of the involvement of the Indian and Afghan agencies in our internal matters. They should know that problems caused to us by these agencies could be short-term for us. While we can overcome these challenges ourselves, the real losers would be the Americans in the long-run.
“As far as dealing with this matter [John’s release] immediately is concerned, it entirely depends on how much pressure the government builds on the kidnappers. This matter has to be dealt tactfully. We must constantly ask this question in the media as to what the fault of this innocent man is who is working with the United Nations to help the humanity. The Baloch Liberation Army (sic) should be appealed to release the official. Otherwise, psychological pressure on them should be intensified. The government should do whatever I can to safeguard the life of an innocent person. The kidnappers should surely press for the release of their imprisoned friends but they must not kill an innocent man.”
The private news channel also reported that soon after telecasting the video, its Quetta office was surrounded by the intelligence officials who kept badgering the staff members as to from where they had received the video. I think this is a shameful intrusion in the affairs of the media. The government agencies have no right to investigate the media houses about their sources. We, the people in the media, are simply responsible for providing news not for being a party.
In an interview with Aaj TV, Inspector General Frontier Corps (FC) Major General Saleem Nawaz spoke very harshly against the kidnappers. “They [ the kidnappers] have touched a wrong person and will have to pay a heavy price for this act,” he warned.
The IG repeatedly argued that the BLUF was in fact the reshaping of the older organizations. Sitting from Afghanistan, he charged, Bramdagh Bugti, the grandson of Nawab Mohammad Akbar Khan Bugti, was running these operations on the directives of foreign elements. “If he were in the country, we would have arrested and brought him to justice,” he assured.
Mr. Nawaz also ridiculed the BLUF demands for the release of 141 missing women and 6000 other Baloch missing persons. In his views, these were exaggerated figures and if some people were really missing then their relatives and neighbors should contact the government to seek justice.
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.