Kidnapped British journalist set free
By Pazir Gul
MIRAMSHAH: A British journalist kidnapped by militants in North Waziristan in March this year was released on Thursday.
Asad Qureshi, 51, was picked up while he was trying to sneak into North Waziristan on March 26 to make a documentary for BBC Channel 4, along with two former officials of a Pakistani intelligence agency, one of whom was later beheaded by their captors. They were in the custody of Asian Tigers, a Taliban group headed by Sabir Mehsud.
Sources told Dawn that the Qureshi family had brokered a deal with Taliban and paid a ransom of Rs14 million for his and his driver Rustam KhanÂ’s release. The British High Commission in Islamabad confirmed Mr Qureshi’s release and said he was being extended consular assistance.
Intelligence official Khalid Khawaja was beheaded in April and according to officials, the other hostage, Col Imam, is believed to be alive and in captivity.
AFP adds: “We can confirm Asad Qureshi has been released,” said George Sherriff, a spokesman for the British High Commission in Islamabad.
The fate of the third captive, retired military officer Sultan Ameer Tarar, known as “Colonel Imam”, could not be confirmed.
Asad Qureshi, a documentary film producer of Pakistani origin, lived in Britain but spent the last few years in Pakistan – first working in the information ministry during the government of former military ruler Pervez Musharraf.
He later returned to documentary work and was believed to have been working on a film about the Taliban at the time of his kidnapping.
A previously unknown group calling themselves Asian Tigers earlier claimed to have kidnapped the men and sent a video of one of their captives, former spy Khalid Khawaja, to the media, before apparently killing him.
An email purportedly sent by the faction said they killed Khawaja because the government did not accept the conditions they had set for his release.
Khawaja, a former ISI officer and reported associate of Osama bin Laden, was found dead with a note accusing him of spying for the United States, according to security officials. His body was dumped in Mirali town in North Waziristan.
Khawaja headed a local human rights group and campaigned on behalf of missing people allegedly detained by intelligence agencies in the fight against militants.
During the Musharraf regime, Khawaja was arrested several times and once charged with possession of banned literature, propagating militancy and inciting hatred against the government.
Khawaja reportedly met Bin Laden in Afghanistan and reputedly claimed close ties to the Al Qaeda mastermind.