Hyarbyar acting as mediator to get Solecki released


DAWN, Karachi Wednesday, 25 Mar, 2009 | 05:27 AM PST

LONDON: Hyarbyar Marri, recently acquitted of terrorism charges in the UK, has been acting as the interlocutor between the Balochistan-based kidnappers of UN official John Solecki and the government of Pakistan to get the American citizen released.

Pakistani officials managing the three-point contacts from London told Dawn in a background briefing that Mr Marri was approached by Pakistan’s interior ministry via the Pakistan High Commission in the UK to use his influence with the kidnappers.

They said it was Hyarbyar who had so far been successfully persuading the kidnappers to extend the deadlines. The kidnappers had given the government a list of 1,109 people, including 141 women, it wanted released in return for releasing Mr Solecki.

The government of Pakistan had claimed last week that it was in the processes of searching the people on the list.

Hyarbyar, son of Khair Bux Marri, lives in exile in London. He was arrested by the UK government some two years back at former army chief Gen (retd) Musharraf’s behest on charges of being involved in terrorist activities in Pakistan.

However, the jury could not reach a verdict and earlier this month the Crown Prosecution Service decided not to pursue a further trial.

Officials giving the background briefing claimed that the PPP-led government in Islamabad had immediately taken up the case of Hyarbyar after President Asif Ali Zardari personally tendered an apology on behalf of his government to the people of Pakistan for all the sufferings and oppression that they had undergone over all these past years.

Rehman Malik, the adviser to the PM on interior, visited the UK a number of times over the last several months to arrange withdrawal of government of Pakistan’s earlier charges of terrorism against Hyarbyar.

In Pakistan, Hyarbyar’s father, the highly influential Baloch Sardar is also said to have volunteered to help in getting Mr Solecki released.

According to a report in the Guardian earlier this week, the UN had also approached both father and son in an attempt to open up a dialogue with the Balochistan Liberation United Front (BLUF), a previously unknown group which has claimed responsibility for the abduction.

‘We have been in contact with various families (tribal leaders),’ said Jennifer Pagonis, spokeswoman for the UNHCR in Islamabad. ‘We have also approached the Marri family because of their standing in the Baloch community. We asked them for any assistance they could provide in securing Solecki’s release.’

‘We have talked to Hyarbyar Marri, we have talked to the Nawab (Khair Baksh) Marri, and they’ve all been helpful. We appreciate their support.’

The Guardian quoted Malik Siraj Akbar, a journalist and commentator based in Quetta, as saying that the BLUF appeared to be a new breed of rebel group, youngsters who had adopted more radical methods than the likes of the Baloch Liberation Army.

But the Marri family remain an influential force in the region, he said, adding that Hyarbyar Marri had issued statements that had been instrumental in extending deadlines set by the kidnappers in the past.

‘Hyarbyar Marri is acceptable to the armed groups, that’s made him the focus, the most important person right now (in the negotiations),’ said Akbar. ‘He is the only man who can influence the BLUF.’
The UN has been unable to hold direct talks with Solecki’s kidnappers, while the Pakistani authorities have been unable to determine who the BLUF are.

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