Search for Pearl extended to Quetta, Peshawar One more arrest in Lahore; Moin claims progress; US steps up release demand
ISLAMABAD- The search for kidnapped US journalist Daniel Pearl has been extended to Quetta and Peshawar after exhaustive but so far unsuccessful attempts by special police teams in Karachi. Army’s coast guards, operating in the Sindh and Balochistan sea waters, have also been put on high alert and are being used to trace the culprits. Sindh government sources told this correspondent on Sunday that a massive search and arrest operation was presently underway in these two cities.
Sources said a Sindh police expert in counter-terrorism and crises management was monitoring the whole operation and co-ordinating with the FBI, ISI, MI and IB to recover the US journalist. “We are also paying attention to Peshawar and Quetta because these are the two cities visited by Mr Pearl during his stay in Pakistan. We are exploring all possibilities to track him and the kidnappers down,” a police source said.
The sources said that the investigation team had found some clues and were working on them but did not want to take risks at this stage fearing that the kidnappers could take extreme action if government agencies reacted in haste. However, the officials said that they were also focusing on Karachi and had detained six people who had been in contact with the missing journalist during his stay in Karachi. The officials said that they were not clueless but did not want to expose their strategy right now.
Our Lahore correspondent adds: To locate the abducted US journalist Daniel Pearl, police arrested a young man here who e-mailed the media, sources said on Sunday. The accused, identified as Babar Faisal, was arrested from his residence at North Cantt in a raid conducted by a Karachi police team, headed by Superintendent Police (SP) Saifullah. Actual address of Babar could not be ascertained. However, according to the sources, he works with some stitching unit and is affiliated with Harkat-ul-Mujahideen. The sources said that the Karachi police team took Lahore police team into confidence before this operation.
Police on Sunday appeared no closer to finding US journalist Daniel Pearl 11 days after his abduction, despite detaining 12 people and ruling out a claim that he is dead. As Washington stepped up demands for Pearl’s release, Pakistan police dismissed as a hoax an e-mail which said Pearl had been killed and another saying he “may be” alive.
Although the investigation had led to the detention of 12 people in Karachi, Lahore and the capital Islamabad, police said on Sunday that no charges had been laid, and there had been no arrests in connection with the kidnapping. An intelligence officer in Karachi said that authorities were now only treating e-mails carrying photos of Pearl as genuine, branding any others as fakes.
“Police have reached the conclusion that the e-mails with photographs attached appear to be genuine.” He said a 16-year-old in Lahore had admitted to sending an e-mail on Saturday claiming that Pearl “is (may be)” alive. Police in Islamabad detained two people overnight for questioning over Pearl after a tip-off from Karachi, the capital’s police chief Nasir Khan Durrani said. “They have been included in the investigation,” Durrani told this refusing to give details.
In Karachi police have detained 10 people, the city’s police chief Tariq Jamil said. Several more who had been detained on suspicion of sending e-mails and making a ransom demand by telephone to the US embassy on Friday, have been released.
Interior Minister Moinuddin Haider told reporters some progress had been made in investigations but there had been no breakthrough. Sindh Governor Muhammadmian Soomro also appealed to the captors to set Daniel Pearl free, keeping in view the rich traditions of Islam and the Pakistani culture. The governor said that the US journalist was in Karachi performing his professional duties, and because of his disappearance, his wife and all his well-wishers were in distress.
“Daniel Pearl’s suffering is creating a bad image for the province, Pakistan and its people, who are known far and wide for their hospitality. The dictates of justice, fair play and Islamic conduct demand showing of care, concern and affection towards fellow human beings,” he said. “Please demonstrate kindness to him and his family. I am certain, Allah Almighty will bless you for showing such kindness for a fellow being,” Soomro said, passionately appealing to Daniel’s captors “to release him to raise the image of Muslim Ummah and the country.”
In Munich, Foreign Minister Abdul Sattar said that Pakistan was still hunting for the kidnapped US reporter, dismissing messages which suggested that he had been killed. “We have made the determination that the telephone call that came yesterday to the US embassy and the e-mail were false, that they did not give correct information,” Sattar told Reuters Television on the fringes of a security conference here. “We hope that Daniel Pearl is still alive and we are continuing to make all the efforts that we can,” he said.
Sattar said that the search would have been made easier if Pearl had left the names, numbers and addresses of the people he planned to meet. “In order to investigate after a mishap takes place, our police must have some leads, where to look for him,” he said. “I have a great deal of sympathy for the gentleman, Pearl, and his family but I can only tell you that our authorities are doing the best they can to locate him,” he added.
In Washington, US Secretary of State Colin Powell said that he had “no late information” to suggest anything new about the fate of the journalist. “We hope he is alive and that the kidnappers come to the realisation that he is a reporter doing his job and could tell their story to benefit their cause,” he told CBS News.
White House National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice demanded Pearl’s immediate release. “Daniel Pearl needs to be released right away,” she told Fox News. “We just hope that this can come to a resolution very quickly.” Pearl’s pregnant wife Mariane sent an open letter to the Pakistani people calling for her husband’s captors to see the “man, before the American”. “The people who are keeping Danny captive are crying for justice. This I know. But this I also know — they hold my husband. My husband is my life. I am six months pregnant, and he is the father of my unborn child,” the letter said.
Source: The News