Tuesday 1 November 2016

From Kashmir to Khyber

15 year-old Kidnapped from her Home in Khuiratta - AJK and taken to Kalkot in Upper Dir – KPK Pakistan

What can possibly be described as a tradition of kidnapping given the frequency of such cases since the tribal invasion of Jammu & Kashmir in October 1947 and the earthquake of the same month in 2005, continues with this case of a young student Ayman Shabir - barely 15 - abducted from the courtyard of her home at around 8 pm on Friday the 8th of July this year, which also coincided with the third day of Eid.  

When this ‘story’ was narrated to this writer on the 13th of this month (October), one could not escape the parallels drawn in the opening paragraph above. The cries and shrieks of those young women who were kidnapped from their homes or swept off the streets of Muzaffarabad, Uri and Baramulla or captured from the forests of the Jhelum Valley as they fled for their lives and honour in 1947, were virtually reverberating in my mind.

In this case, the kidnapped was a poor vulnerable Kashmiri girl and the alleged kidnapper Waheed Ullah s/o Arif Ullah (NIC No. 15703-2875931-9) was an un-educated Pathan, who had spent the preceding few months working as a labourer in the vicinity of Khuiratta - or according to some sources - supplying drugs in the region.

The disappearance of Ayman Shabir on that fateful evening as narrated by her father Shabir Bhatt, took place soon after Ayman had escorted her paternal grandmother (Daadi) to and back from the washroom, barely a dozen feet away from their residential quarters. A sudden strong breeze cut out the electricity giving the lurking Waheed Ullah enough cover to kidnap Ayman, leaving her family totally unaware of what had happened to her.
Some minutes later, when Ayman hadn’t returned to the family’s living quarters, a frantic search by her family for the next hour brought no result. A report was then immediately lodged at Khuiratta police station (case ref. no. 93/16). According to the police a Naaka Bandi (blockade) of major routes leading out of Khuiratta was enforced whereby vehicles leaving the region were checked. Again, to no avail.

The kidnapped girl’s distraught father Shabir Bhatt s/o Sakhi Muhammad and aged around 50, makes his living as a driver providing wholesale goods in the surrounding areas of district Kotli. A poor man with 2 boys and 5 girls to look after has shown relentless determination to retrieve his daughter Ayman, who in her matriculation exams had obtained around 93%.

For the first 28 days, the family had no idea as to what had happened to her, whereupon her elder brother Abdul Qadeer received a phone call. The caller at the other end notified him that his sister was in ‘their’ custody and that her family need not ‘worry’ about her. It took a further couple of weeks to establish the full details of the alleged kidnapper (after obtaining printouts of phone calls made and verification from NADRA – a facility not immediately available to the police of AJK and involves a procedure involving Pakistan’s federal agencies). Thereupon, an arduous and expensive manhunt to retrieve the girl began, which has yet to bear fruit.

Shabir Bhatt accompanied on multiple occasions by at least 5 members of the AJK police was lead around various parts of the KPK province including Charsadda, Haripur, Mansehra and including the alleged kidnapper’s home area of Kalkot in Upper Dir. 28 year old Waheed Ullah was never captured, he would always elude them, sometimes minutes before being traced.

On their first visit to Waheed Ullah’s hometown of Kalkot in Upper Dir, Pakistan’s clandestine agencies also accompanied them and were provided TADA (expenses covering diesel, food and accommodation) for their efforts.

On August the 18th, they appeared to make some breakthrough by making contact with Waheed Ullah’s maternal uncle Noor Ullah (or Gul Noor Shah as some describe him) who was an Imam, a Government employed high school teacher as well as an active member of Jamaat-e-Islami and constituency politics. He in turn, assured Shabir Bhatt that he would come home to Kalkot after 10 days and resolve ‘this problem’.

Other possible avenues for resolution adopted were the local member of KPK’s provincial assembly, namely Muhammad Ali who felt it wasn’t in his line of duty to intervene but recommended his father Alam Deen, who happened to be the local tribal chieftain. Nevertheless, despite the latter’s sincere efforts through the holding of multiple jirgas, he was unable to convince the family of Waheed Ullah to part with the ‘kidnapped’ girl.
Meanwhile, Noor Ullah did not show up on the appointed day as agreed, describing his location at various intervals to different enquirers from Abbotabad to Nowshera to Peshawar. The cost of these 3 particular days for Ayman’s father was over 80,000 rupees!

According to Shabir Bhatt, all these Pathans who he came into contact with - in an effort to retrieve his daughter - would give him 5% leeway while reserving 95% of their sympathy with the alleged kidnapper. At one point, he decided to stay in Kalkot by himself until his daughter was returned. There, he was able to meet the mother of Waheed Ullah and his 2 brothers Zaheer Ullah and Safi Ullah. Meanwhile, Alam Deen the tribal chieftain took pains to convince Shabir that he would personally assume responsibility of sending both the boy and girl to Khuiratta. Since then, contact between the two has remained regular on a daily basis, though the story has changed to Alam Deen now considering sending some fellow villagers to visit Khuiratta to judge the ‘conditions’ there. Which is not what Shabir Bhatt wants, he wants his daughter back.

Media coverage of this issue thus far has been minimal, while a local politician at one stage was very eager (before the general elections in AJK) to retrieve the ‘kidnapped’ girl at his own expense. However, he suddenly and inexplicably changed his mind on the evening before the morning they were set to leave for the alleged kidnapper’s village. Meanwhile, a letter in Urdu describing the issue has gone out to the Chief of Army Staff (COAS) of Pakistan, the Prime Minister of Pakistan and other notable public figures, with a desperate plea for help.

On my part thus far, a video summary of the issue has been uploaded to Youtube (ref. above). I then contacted Alam Deen on the morning of the 20th of October, in summary he suggested that I ask Sahibzada Tariq Ullah (Member of the National Assembly for Upper Dir on a Jamaat-e-Islami ticket) who could commit Molvi Noor Ullah (the maternal but elusive uncle of Waheed Ullah) to resolving the issue. Despite numerous attempts, I haven’t been able to speak to him thus far and a lengthy text message has not been responded to either.

In summary, despite the passage of almost 4 months, an FIR against the alleged kidnapper Waheed Ullah and numerous visits by the girl’s father (and the AJK police) to Kalkot in Upper Dir with expenditure exceeding 5 lakh rupees, this case remains unresolved.

This report is being sent to:

1) Sahibzada Tariq Ullah
Rehankot Bala Upper Dir
44 Government Hostel
Contact: 03018597333
Constituency: NA-33 (Upper Dir-cum-Lower Dir (Old Upper Dir)
Party: Jamaat-e-Islami (JI)

2) Parvez Khattak (Chief Minister of KPK)
Complaint and Redressal Cell

3) Rashid Turabi
Ameer Jamaat-e-Islami – AJK
Bagh - AJK

4) Imran Khan
Khan House, Bani Gala, Mohra Noor, Islamabad
House No.2 St. 84 G 6/4 Embassy Road, Islamabad
Contact: 0512270744
Constituency: NA-56 (Rawalpindi-VII)
Party: PTI

5) Asfandyar Wali Khan
Wali Bagh, Tehsil and District Charsadda
Contact: 0916560560 / 0519212914
Constituency: NA-7 (Charsadda -1)
Party: ANP

6) Maulana Fazl-ur-Rehman
Mohallah Shehbaz Khel Wanda Khan, VIII Muhammad Abdul Khel D.I. Khan
Jamia Marraf Sharia Banu Road Shorkot D.I.Khan
G-209 Parliament Lodges Islamabad
Contact: 03008506684
Constituency: NA-26 (Bannu)
Party: Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal Pakistan (MMAP)

7) Mehmood Khan Achakzai
Kawari Road House No.4
39/9 Mohallah Jabbar Colony Quetta
c-201, Parliament Lodges - Islamabad
Contact: 03003808061
Constituency: NA 259 Quetta
Party: Pakhtoon Milli Awami Party (PMAP)

This blog will be updated as and when fresh developments on this issue occur


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