Militants Free Ambassador Of Pakistan In Exchange

Militants Free Ambassador Of Pakistan In Exchange
May 18th, 2008  
Team Infidel

Topic: Militants Free Ambassador Of Pakistan In Exchange

Militants Free Ambassador Of Pakistan In Exchange
New York Times
May 18, 2008
Pg. 12
By Jane Perlez
PESHAWAR, Pakistan — Pakistan’s ambassador to Afghanistan, who was kidnapped three months ago by Taliban militants as he traveled in Pakistan’s tribal area, was released Friday night, the government said.
The release of the envoy, Tariq Azizuddin, was announced Saturday, and he arrived in Islamabad in the afternoon.
His release was the most prominent one sought by the government as part of a broad peace deal it is expected to complete with the Pakistani Taliban within days. The deal has already involved an exchange of prisoners between Tehrik-e-Taliban, the umbrella group for Pakistani militants, and the army.
The government said Mr. Azizuddin was handed over by Tehrik-e-Taliban in North Waziristan. His driver and bodyguard, who had been captured with him, were also released.
During his three-month ordeal, the Pakistani government said it knew that Mr. Azizuddin was in the hands of Baitullah Mehsud, the leader of the umbrella group. The Pakistani government has accused Mr. Mehsud of involvement in the assassination of the former prime minister Benazir Bhutto.
A video of Mr. Azizuddin, taken in early March about a month after he was captured, and broadcast on an Arabic language television channel in Dubai in April, showed him in mountainous terrain surrounded by Pakistani Taliban militants with black turbans wrapped around their faces. They carried Kalishnikov rifles.
In the video, Mr. Azizuddin, wearing a newly grown beard, appealed to the Pakistani government to meet the demands of his captors as soon as possible. He said that he had high blood pressure and a heart ailment.
Mr. Azizuddin was traveling by car through the Khyber Agency tribal area on the main road toward the border with Afghanistan when he was kidnapped on Feb. 11. He was going to the Pakistani Embassy in Kabul with no escort vehicle, government officials said.
In an interview with Dawn, an English-language television channel, Mr. Azizuddin said he had been grabbed from his car by 16 militants, carrying an arsenal of weapons, including a suicide bomber’s jacket.
“They were all very angry, very violent, all in a hurry to put me in their vehicle,” he said. During his captivity, he was taken to three different places, all inside the tribal area of Pakistan, but was always surrounded by the same people, he said. His final holding place, according to government officials, was in South Waziristan, the area controlled by Mr. Mehsud.
His Taliban captors referred to him as a “big fish” and told him they were making demands of the Pakistani government according to his status, he said. He added that he had been instructed “word for word” on what to say on the videotaped appeal.
His release was part of the “larger game” of a peace deal between the government and the Pakistani Taliban, said Khalid Aziz, a former chief secretary of the North-West Frontier Province.
The leader of the Pakistani Taliban, Mr. Mehsud, had succeeded in the negotiations to free dozens of his fighters, Mr. Aziz said. “He’s better placed than before,” Mr. Aziz said.
But a senior Interior Ministry official, Rehman Malik, denied that Mr. Azizuddin’s release was part of any deal. “This is a total law enforcement action,” the official said.
The pending agreement, which calls for the withdrawal of the Pakistani Army from parts of the tribal areas in exchange for the militants’ ending hostilities, has dismayed the Bush administration, which considers the deal too lenient toward militants.
The militants will remain free to cross the border into Afghanistan, where they will launch attacks against NATO and United States troops, American officials say.
Ismail Khan contributed reporting.

Similar Topics
Pakistan Asserts It Is Near A Deal With Militants
Pakistan To Talk With Militants, New Leaders Say
Pakistan Victors Want Dialogue With Militants
Militants Draw New Front Line Inside Pakistan
Indians are so treacherous -- Richard Nixon