Pakistanis released by Somali pirates reach home
Karachi: The nearly two-year ordeal of seven Pakistanis held hostage by Somali pirates ended on Thursday night when they arrived at the Karachi airport to an emotional welcome. They were greeted on arrival by the cheers and tears of their family and well-wishers and later attended a ceremony at the Governor’s House accompanied by Governor Sindh Dr. Ishrat-ul-Ebad, Chief Minister Sindh Syed Qaim Ali Shah and ministers of the federal and provincial cabinets.
Captain Javed Saleem from Karachi, Chief Officer Mujtaba from Mansehra, engineer Zulfiqar Ali, engineer Raheel Anwar from Faisalabad, sailors Kashif Islam from Dir, Ahsan Naveed from Jhelum and Faqeer Muhammad Soomro from Karachi had been held hostage by the Somali pirates onboard the merchant vessel MV Albedo since November 2010.
“Today, I hold my head high for being a Pakistani and view of lush green lawn. Now, I would serve Pakistan and Islam for rest of my life, he vowed.
Recalling horror of being held hostage, Javed said out of hostages, eight Indians were murdered but their deaths were not declared. He said six Sri Lankans and seven Bangladeshis and others Indians and Iranians were still in custody of the pirates. He said the vessel owner was Iranian based in Malaysia but he did not help them. Whatever role Pakistan had played, it was unparalleled in the world as even Gora (Englishmen) envies it, Javed believed.
He said now other hostages were looking toward Pakistan to get them released as their countries were not coming forward to help them. Javed recalled that they were kept in a place for three months, which could be called worse than jungle and desert where they slept under heavy stones. He said they were provided bags of rice, flour and vermicelli.
Referring tremendous generous role of Pakistani nation during earthquake and floods, when Javed said he had seen the world for 42 years but Pakistani nation was unparalleled, the people clapped hands to support his contention.
“Thank you very much everybody, God bless you,” he ended his speech. His wife Begum Javed said in this difficult time, they faced ‘failures’ many times and there was time when they knew nothing about their near and dear ones for eight months.
The pirates use to tell them that her husband Captain Javed and Mujtaba had been murdered. “I am very happy but saddened over the conditions under which we went,” Begum Javed said and prayed to Almighty Allah that no other family should face such fate. “Today me and my children have got new life,” said Neelum wife of Mujtaba amid tears.
She said she had come from Mansehra to Karachi to get help for release of her husband as she dif not get help from any other source there. Neelum said for 10 months, no one heard their plight while they received threats from the pirates. She said she could not express her words of thanks to the Governor, CPLC chief and others.
The CPLC chief Ahmed Chinoy who played active role in negotiating with the pirates said the credit for release of seven Pakistanis goes to Pakistan. He said they made contact with the pirates around one year ago and they demanded ransom money amounting to 10-12 million dollars, which was very difficult to be collected.
Chief Minister Sindh Syed Qaim Ali Shah said they were happy that Pakistanis have returned home safely with new life. He said this effort has made Pakistanis to hold their head in high as they made impossible thing to become possible. Shah said there was a time when they almost lost of any hope of the hostages being released. He appreciated the resolve of the hostages who suffered tremendous hardships in the captivity of the pirates. Shah also appreciated the efforts of the Governor, MQM chief Altaf Hussain, the CPLC chief and specially President Asif Ali Zardari and media who according to him, who were ‘moving force’ behind this saga of release.
Governor Sindh Dr. Ishrat-ul-Ebad said there were some successes, which bring satisfaction and the release of Pakistani hostages is one of them. He said when he made telephonic contact with Capt Javed around 36 hours ago when he was released, he (Javed) told him that ‘today he is really proud of being Pakistani.’He asked all seven hostages and their families to come one side of the dais so that Pakistanis could see their tears and happiness.Ebad said the pirates have demanded 10 million dollars, which appeared impossible demand. However, their team led by the CPLC chief engaged the pirates in ‘intelligence negotiation’ marked by sometimes soft and other times harsh and compromising attitude as well. He said they also involved the foreign ministry, private sector and the government. The Governor said they waited around two and half months to get all hostages belonging to different countries released but regrettably other countries and stake-holders did not give positive response. Subsequently, we focused to get Pakistanis released.
Ebad revealed that the hostages were released in an operation, which they have given the name of ‘Operation Subah-e-Nau’ (New Dawn).
He said they got money from the families and donors as well while MQM chief Altaf Hussain also encouraged them. He said time came when philanthropists also extended help to them.
But big boost to their efforts for getting financial help came when girl child Bakhtawar, daughter of the hostage Mujtaba made TV appeal to President of Pakistan Asif Ali Zardari by saying that your (Zardari) daughter is also Bakhtawar and helped her to get her father released.
Subsequently, the President personally phoned me and later on, Malik Riaz provided all money. He said Malik Riaz was invited but he could not attend the ceremony, however, his representative Zain was present here.
He said Pakistani donors demonstrated the gesture of humanity and Pakistani nationality. He also appreciated the role of Arif Naqvi, head of Abraj group
Ebad said Naval chief also assured them of full cooperation while Pak envoy to Malaysia Masood played active role. He also appreciated the UAE envoy to Pakistan Jameel Ahmed who was present in the ceremony and who made the matters easy.
He said out of option of land and sea, they preferred the land route as it was relatively less risky. And for this purpose, they have sought the help of intelligence agencies of Pakistan. The Governor appreciated the role of former DG ISI Gen. (retd) Shuja Pasha and present DG ISI Zaheerul Islam to this effect.
He said the release of the hostages was made possible with collective efforts.“We are happy that all hostages are safe and wish that other hostages also get released soon,” Dr. Ishrat said, adding that we are proud of being Pakistani in true sense of word.
Courtesy The News