PAKISTAN: Appeal for the release of abducted Canadian journalist and two Pakistanis — Asian Human Rights Commission

A Canadian freelance journalist and her two Pakistani assistants were abducted by agents reportedly working for Taliban commander, Gul Bahadur, from Pakistan’s Northwest Frontier Province in November, 2008. Her abductors have demanded US$375,000 by March 31 to secure her release, otherwise they claim she will be killed.

Khadija Abdul Qahaar, 52, who was known as Beverly Giesbrecht before her conversion to Islam, was seized at gunpoint along with local translator Salman and cook-cum-driver Zar Muhammad. They were in Bannu, which borders Afghanistan, reportedly gathering material for her website, Jihad Unspun, which is an independent news forum dealing with issues relating to jihad.

Months after the abduction, the family members of the local assistants, who wanted to keep the kidnapping of their relatives low profile, claimed not to have heard from the government or the kidnappers. The condition of the two men is unclear, but sources suggest that at least one has already been murdered. However two videos broadcast on the Internet have shown Qahaar asking the authorities for a ransom of up to US$375,000. She says that her captors will likely kill her at the end of the month, should the money not be paid. Media reports have suggested that the woman’s deteriorating condition has caused her captors to set an early deadline.

The AHRC urges the Pakistan authorities to do their utmost to secure the release of Khadija Abdul Qahaar and her two assistants Salman and Zar Muhammad, if still alive, and arrange talks with those responsible for their abduction. If the hostages are no longer in Pakistan, they should make full use of diplomatic channels. The AHRC also notes that the use of such terror tactics shows both desperation and a weakness of purpose on the part of the abductors, and appeals to them for the humane treatment and safe release of these three civilians, followed by the pursuit of alternative, diplomatic channels of discourse.

Document Type : Statement
Document ID : AHRC-STM-074-2009
Countries : Pakistan,