Monday, May 25, 2015

Daily Times Editorial May 26, 2015

Sons of the fathers Former prime minister Yousaf Raza Gilani talked to his kidnapped son Ali Haider Gilani on the phone on Sunday from Multan for the first time since his abduction two years ago. The contact was the first direct interaction, previous contacts having been indirect, which also ceased one year ago. Ali Haider Gilani, according to his father, seemed in good spirits and hopeful of his release soon. He spoke to some family members and Shah Mahmood Qureshi too, who was accompanying the elder Gilani. The contact was initiated through a message that gave a number in Afghanistan where the young man is believed to be held by his Taliban kidnappers. It may be recalled that Ali Haider Gilani was abducted from Multan on May 9, 2013, two days before the elections for which he was campaigning, in a hail of gunfire by his kidnappers riding motorcycles that led to the deaths of his secretary and a bodyguard and injuries to four others. Finding kidnapees has never been easy once they fall into the clutches of these evil men, and this proved to be the case with Ali Haider Gilani too. Reports speak of the kidnappers’ demands, including Rs two billion ransom (subsequently reduced to Rs 500 million) and the release of some detained terrorists. Speaking to media, Yousaf Raza Gilani said he had been trying to get his son released all this time and when the demand for the release of some militants was conveyed to him indirectly, he had expressed his helplessness to meet such a demand but had appealed to the kidnappers to take a reasonable amount of ransom money for the release of his son. However, that too failed to transpire. Now Ali Haider Gilani, who suffers from asthma and had a liver transplant in 2011, says he is being better treated and in a safer place than where he was previously being held, which was subjected to many drone attacks. On May 7 this year, Yousaf Raza Gilani had accompanied former president Asif Ali Zardari to Afghanistan and there pleaded with President Ashraf Ghani to help him recover his son as sources indicated he was being held in Afghanistan. Reports say it is because of the Afghan president and authorities’ efforts, which piled pressure on the kidnappers, that they have initiated contact to strike a ransom deal. Yousaf Raza Gilani was due to meet high authorities in Islamabad yesterday to follow up on the telephonic contact and intensify efforts to resolve the impasse. While any parent would sympathise with Yousaf Raza Gilani’s plight, there is also the matter of the kidnapped son of slain late governor of Punjab and founder-publisher of this paper Salmaan Taseer to bring to a closure. Shahbaz Taseer was abducted from Lahore in August 2011 and despite speculative reports about his health and whereabouts over the years since, no movement towards his recovery is in evidence. Yousaf Raza Gilani emphasised that he had also spoken about Shahbaz Taseer’s release, but the longer running kidnapping of Shahbaz has yet to offer the kind of even tenuously hopeful signs that Ali Haider Gilani’s case appears to now present. Salmaan Taseer may no longer be with us, but the agony of his family continues unabated. Rumours about Shahbaz’s location cannot be verified, but if logically the pressure brought to bear on the Taliban because of Operation Zarb-e-Azb has forced them to relocate across the border in Afghanistan, the tantalising possibility exists that Shahbaz Taseer too may have been moved out of Pakistan. While the authorities make efforts to free Ali Haider Gilani, they are morally bound not to forget the sufferings of Shahbaz Taseer and his family and to make equal if not greater efforts to trace him out and have him released. For a parent, even the slightest hurt to a child is beyond tolerance. Imagine then the pain of parents and families waiting for their progeny for years on end with no end to the nightmare in sight. In the name of humanity and the sufferings of the families, all people of good sense appeal to the kidnappers to let their prisoners go and allow them to be reunited with their loved ones.

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