A guide for Danny Pearl’s release
The kidnappers of the American journalist are at an important crossroads. If they’re smart, they’ll realise that their interest now is to bring a conclusion to the incident that leaves them in the best position for the future.
That means releasing Danny Pearl, the Wall Street Journal reporter taken captive two weeks ago, unharmed; but also imposing conditions that are doable. In this way, both sides win: The kidnappers can gain support for their cause, money, legitimacy, ensure their own safety and display mercy. Danny will keep his life, and his wife’s unborn child will grow up with a father.
Here’s a step-by-step guide for the kidnappers on how to release Danny Pearl:
1. Understand your interests: These include getting your message out, maintaining your group’s long-term operation, ensuring your own freedom from capture, and changing US policy.
2. Keep Danny Pearl alive. He’s your means to bring the other side to the negotiating table so you can achieve your goals. If Danny dies, you have nothing to offer the other side in return.
3. Impose achievable conditions on the other side. If they’re unrealistic, they won’t happen, and you’ll be worse off, not better off. Also, impose conditions confidentially, so that there’s no loss of face or precedent on the other side. Be satisfied with a silent victory for your cause, don’t try for a symbolic one that will harm your cause.
Here are the conditions that meet your interests:
A. Message: Request that The Wall Street Journal publish your views, so that you can communicate them with the wider world. It doesn’t matter what form the article takes, be it an interview or an article you write yourself. This will allow you to voice your concerns directly to a global audience.
B. Funding: If your group is to exist in the long term, it will need money. Ask for an amount that will be easy to conceal as well as spend. For instance, one million US dollars in one hundred dollar bills fits easily in a briefcase. Don’t ask for so much that you lose the support of fellow Muslims who may accuse you of trying to materially profit rather than promote your cause.
C. Safety: Negotiate with the Pakistan authorities a means to release Mr Pearl so that you will not be caught. The interest of the Pakistan government is the safe return of Mr Pearl, since his detention hurts the image of the Pakistan nation and its people. As a result, the police will prefer to get Mr Pearl back unharmed rather than capture you.
D. Legitimacy: Insist on an international team of observers to investigate the conditions of the prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay and make recommendations. (The group can even include representatives from Muslim states such as Iran or Iraq, to ensure it’s not a puppet of the US).
The group will help expose the treatment and can start a process to address any problems. Moreover, to achieve your aims, and ensure your group’s operations, it is important to have moral credibility. One way is to refer to the international community. Even many of America’s allies and Americans themselves object to the policies of the US government. You can obtain their support by calling on the world community to ensure that prisoners are treated humanely.
What’s most essential to your interests is that Mr Pearl is released unharmed. If he’s freed, you can claim victory, gain international respect by showing mercy, and ensure a powerful role for your organisation as an important actor on the international policy stage. If Mr Pearl is harmed, you will lack public support as well as a means to negotiate. That will clearly hurt your cause.
Already, world opinion is shifting. Many people, even in the US, oppose the treatment of the prisoners held by the US. But the longer you hold Mr Pearl, the more the kidnapping itself overshadows your cause. Even the Muslim community is changing its focus from agreeing with your concerns to wanting Mr Pearl freed.
Both Imran Khan and the American boxer Muhammad Ali have urged Mr Pearl’s release.
The group must chose between killing Mr Pearl unnecessarily or resolving the matter in a way that leaves the group in a better position. There is only one way to do that: Negotiate to free Danny Pearl.
The writer is a former Executive Editor of the Wall Street Journal.
Source: The News