Mystery surrounds Omar's call to Pearl's captors -Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Paksitan Press Foundtion

Mystery surrounds Omar’s call to Pearl’s captors

KARACHI- As the mystery over the fate of kidnapped US reporter Daniel Pearl deepens, attention in Pakistan is beginning to focus on a crucial phone call made by the man suspected of masterminding the abduction.

British-born Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh calmly confessed in a Karachi court this week to masterminding the kidnapping of the Wall Street Journal reporter, and then shocked the court by declaring he believed Pearl was dead.

Investigators are sceptical that Sheikh Omar was telling the truth, and the Wall Street Journal says it remains confident the 38-year-old Pearl, who went missing more than three weeks ago in Karachi, is still alive.

But, in a case where a different rumour circulates every few hours, some Pakistani newspapers have put forward another version of events.

Omar, investigators say, claims to have called the men who were actually holding Pearl on February 5.

With several family members in detention and the police closing in on him, Omar says he told his accomplices to set Pearl free, in a brief, coded message.

“Shift the patient to the doctor,” Omar said, according to Pakistani local newspaper.

One of Omar’s accomplices replied simply: “Dad has expired.”

What that meant, according to the newspaper, was that Pearl was dead. Omar, it said, has heard from another source that Pearl was shot while trying to escape on January 31.

Hence, according to the latest in the long line of rumours and speculation, Omar’s calm statement in court this week.

“As far as I understand, he’s dead,” Omar said.

Pakistani police, though, are sceptical.

“We feel he must have told them to change location,” one senior investigator said, calling the account of Pearl’s death “nonsense”.

“He’s trying to confuse us, and throw us off course,” the investigator said, adding that they had evidence, too sensitive to reveal, which gave them hope Pearl was still alive.

WHERE WAS OMAR WHEN HE MADE THE CALL?: But if Omar’s message in that February 5 telephone call remains a mystery, his whereabouts on that day are equally uncertain. Police say Omar was picked up in Lahore on February 12. He gave a sharply different account of events in court last week.

“I gave myself in save my family and friends,” he said. “I have been with the police since February 5.”

That was the day, according to Interior Minister Moinuddin Haider, that police detained several of Omar’s relatives, and Omar’s aunt phoned her nephew.

“She (his aunt) said ‘we have been rounded up by police and I think your game is up. We didn’t know you were indulging in thus thing you had better hand yourself over’,” Haider said.

Investigators refuse to comment on rumours that Omar had been held by military intelligence in the capital Islamabad since February 5, rumours fuelled by the fact that Omar finally arrived in Karachi on a plane which came from the capital rather than from Lahore.

“I am not interested in how he was picked up and where from he as picked up,” said Syed Kamal Shah, police chief for the province of Sindh.

“As long as I have got him, and he is being interrogated by me, it would be totally futile for me to waste my time on that.”

Source: Business Recorder
Date:2/17/2002