Conflicting reports about Pearl’s fate: Suspect’s ‘death’ a mystery too
KARACHI/MULTAN- The city police began on Friday night a search for US journalist Daniel Pearl of the Wall Street Journal following a tip-off that he had been killed.
According to sources, the police started late night search in city graveyards after an electronic message was sent to the US television network, Fox News, that Pearl had been killed and his body thrown into a graveyard.
After midnight, Sindh police chief Syed Kamal Shah confirmed that the police were busy searching various graveyards of the city. He, however, said due to darkness the police was facing lot of difficulty.
Previously all electronic messages, he added, were received by the Wall Street Journal and it was the first message sent to the Fox News. “We are searching and we have found no one as yet,” he maintained.
SUSPECT’S DEATH: Earlier, in a related development, our Multan correspondent Nadeem Saeed had reported that mystery shrouding the ‘death’ of a suspect in Pearl’s kidnapping, Arif, deepened when his relatives in Ahmadpur Sharqia told the police that they had been offering fateha on Thursday in the absence of Arif’s body.
CONFLICTING REPORTS: Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal from New York said on Friday that it had seen reports indicating its kidnapped reporter, Daniel Pearl, had been killed, but said it remained hopeful the reports were untrue.
“We have seen the latest reports and we remain hopeful that they are not true,” said a statement from the paper.
In a conflicting report, a police officer in Karachi on Friday said Pearl’s kidnappers had demanded two million dollars within 36 hours for his safe release in an anonymous telephone call.
The call late Friday to the US consulate in Karachi, also demanded the release of the former Afghan ambassador to Pakistan, Abdul Salam Zaeef, a senior police official told this to a news source on condition of anonymity. There was no one available at the consulate to confirm the details.
An unknown group, calling itself the National Movement for the Restoration of Pakistani Sovereignty, claimed responsibility for the kidnapping and threatened to kill Pearl by 1135 GMT Thursday (0435 PST), then extended the deadline by a day.
The captors initially claimed Pearl was a CIA agent, then shifted gears, saying he worked for Israel’s Mossad. Both claims have been vigorously refuted, including an unusual denial by the CIA that Pearl worked for the organization.
DEATH OF SUSPECT: Meanwhile, mystery shrouding the ‘death’ of a suspect in the American journalist’s kidnapping case deepened on Friday when his relatives in Ahmedpur East told police that they were offering ‘fateha’ in his absentia.
Bahawalpur Range Deputy Inspector General (DIG) Altaf Qamar said it was in fact a team of Bahawalpur police, which visited Ahmedpur East on a Sindh police request to gather information about Arif. “When our team reached there, people were offering ‘Ghaibana fateha’ for Arif,” he said.
According to the information gathered by the Bahawalpur police, Arif had been missing for the last more than three years. Area people told police that he was a constant subject of his parent’s admonishing. The last contact he made with his family was through a letter from an unknown destination written one-and-a-half-year ago.
Arif wrote that to pay expiation for his sins he had chosen the path to die for Allah.
The DIG quoted his family sources as saying that they received a phone call that Arif had martyred on a ‘foreign front’. Mr Qamar said Arif’s family had no answer when asked how could they rely on the phone call. The DIG, however, denied that Bahawalpur police had arrested any person in connection with the “kidnapping” of Mr Pearl. Police sources, however, confirmed that there was some ‘extra-ordinary’ movement regarding the “kidnapping” case in Bahawalpur.
When contacted to know about the veracity of arrests of some activists of a religious organisation from Multan in connection with the “kidnapping” case, as reported by a foreign news agency, Multan Range DIG police Iftikhar Ahmed categorically denied any such happening. He described the photograph carried by some national dailies as fake. “It is not journalism,” he said.
He said he had contacted Karachi police and CPLC officials to offer any kind of help they might need from Multan police but they were not in any specific need of help from Multan range police in the kidnapping case of the American journalist.
Police sources said that the photograph released by the foreign news agency claiming the arrest of some suspects was in fact a snap seemingly taken when the police made arrests during the country-wide protests against American atrocities in Afghanistan on the call of the Pakistan-Afghan Defence Council sometimes back.