Kidnapped Pakistani professor fears for life as Taliban issues deadline

22:14, November 08, 2010      

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The mushrooming protests and suspended academic activities in universities across Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province in Pakistan on Monday paints a bleak picture, as the insurgent Taliban issued an approaching deadline for the acceptance of their unknown demands for release of the kidnapped vice chancellor of a famous university.

"They (Taliban) gave me November 20 as the deadline for acceptance of their demands," said Dr. Ajmal Khan, Vice Chancellor of the Islamia College University of Peshawar, in a second video tape released Sunday evening with masked militants armed with Kalashnikovs and a dark marines' dagger in the background.

"I might not be alive after that," Ajmal said in a brief message while begging the authorities to help him free. His colleagues and students were taking out widespread protest rallies in the provincial capital.

Disbanded Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) had released a similar video tape on Oct. 14, with Ajmal appealing the authorities to get him out of the clutches of his merciless captors. Ajmal was kidnapped by unidentified armed men from his campus residence on Sept. 7.

Besides the government, the kidnapped senior scholar had also appealed his colleagues in the academic and relatives in political circles to help him get released as he had been in custody of Taliban for the past couple of months.

"I'm a heart patient and can't bear this captivity for long," Ajmal was quoted as saying in his previous video message.

"Unfortunately, like previous message, my appeals have fallen into deaf ears," an apparently demoralized Ajmal complained while asking the government authorities to at least accept certain ordinary demands of his captors.

However, unlike seemingly timid authorities that sheepishly acted over the incident, both academicians and students in the insurgency and terrorism-plagued province, have threatened to continue to keep campuses closed until Ajmal is released.

"We will resort to violence," threatened a student who was leading a protest rally on campus while talking his sentiments with Xinhua on condition of anonymity. "Nobody talks about the kidnapped VC or any effort is visible for his recovery," he added.

Meanwhile, the "United Students Front", a provincial student action committee, has announced to keep all universities closed and academic classes suspended for an indefinite period.

The mystery shrouds deeper in this kidnapping saga, as no ransom or demands have so far been made public either by the provincial government or the kidnappers, as the concerned authorities are keeping lips tight in an apparent clueless situation.

While in his first video message, Ajmal said that "I was abducted by Taliban for being relative of ANP leader."

Local watchers believe that the motive behind Ajmal's kidnapping was that he is cousin of Asfandyar Wali, chief of the Awami National Party (ANP) which rules the northwest Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. The Taliban must have raised some critical demands that have put the authorities in a real test of nerves, analysts believe.

The Taliban might want to use Ajmal as a leverage to force the rivaling provincial government to seek some concessions, analysts believe. In the past, insurgents have been kidnapping prominent persons to seek ransom money and or to exchange freedom for the arrested militants.

Dr. Farooq Khan, vice chancellor of Islamic University of Swat, was shot dead on Oct. 2 in Mardan. The Taliban claimed responsibility of murdering the scholar for his alleged anti- Taliban views.

Earlier on Jan. 16, 2009, religious scholar Pir Hafiz Rafeeullah was kidnapped in Peshawar and slaughtered. His decapitated body was found in Matani area of the city the next morning.

In Nov. 2009, Kohat University vice chancellor Dr. Lutfullah Khan Kakakhel was kidnapped by a Dara Adam Khel-based Taliban group. He was released after eight months of captivity in June this year, reportedly in exchange for some 60 arrested militants.

Analysts believe that undoubtedly the provincial authorities are walking on a tight rope in dealing with the murky situation where the insurgent Taliban and criminal elements have diversified their mode of retaliation against the United States-led war-on- terror.

But, there has been little or no room left for authorities to keep sitting on the "kidnapping" files, as the mob strength of irate students is being galvanized to the extent of a possible volcanic eruption.

Source: Xinhua


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