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Wednesday, March 17, 2010

2 Kidnapped Children Worlds Apart

JHELUM, March 16: When six-year-old Mahnoor Fatima disappeared, her mother’s world collapsed. But she was too poor and kidnappings too common for police to do much more than register the case.

So when Shamin Akhter Butt discovered senior officials were working round the clock to free a five-year-old British boy kidnapped nearly two weeks ago, she rushed to his home in the vain hope of attracting attention to her plight.

“Despite our cries and tears these last six months, nothing has happened. Why isn’t the same attention given to my daughter?” asked Mrs Butt through tears as she stood on the lawn of the British boy’s family home this month.

Mahnoor disappeared while playing outside on October 6 last year, but unlike Sahil Saeed, whose overjoyed family heard on Tuesday he had been released, she has never been seen again.

“This shows the difference between rich and poor. No one even came to my house to console me... Everything is done here for the rich and the British but nothing for Pakistanis and the poor,” she told AFP by telephone on Tuesday.

When Sahil Saeed was kidnapped at the end of a holiday with his grandmother, other people with loved ones missing descended on his home in Jhelum.

The compound shared by Sahil’s grandmother and uncle was crowded with Jhelum notables, political leaders, journalists from local newspapers and correspondents from some of the world’s most influential news channels.

The parents and families of children missing far longer than Sahil, with none of the diplomatic support or pledges of assistance from the government and police, were left wishing for more.

According to statistics, 240 people were kidnapped across the country in the first two months of the year alone — with only 74 of them recovered so far. Many of the cases are related to family quarrels, love affairs, property disputes or simple quests for money — particularly for the wealthier victims.

In Karachi, Mohammad Masroor, a sales executive with a local firm, said he welcomed Sahil’s release, but was desperately worried about his brother Irfan Ali, 22, who was kidnapped when he went out to run errands.

“Other poor Pakistanis should be helped in the same way as the authorities helped that British family,” Masroor told AFP.

“We searched for him the whole night. I inquired about him from relatives and searched hospitals but didn’t find him. Then we lodged a report with the police about his disappearance,” he said.

The next day, the family received an anonymous call demanding Rs5 million for his release.“That call was a bombshell for the family, for our mother in particular. We were helpless as the amount was far beyond our reach,” he said.

Police apparently believe kidnappers are holding Irfan somewhere in thick forest in Sindh, leaving police “helpless” in accessing what has become a virtual no-go area for law enforcement authorities.

“The whole family is extremely disturbed, but I have put all my savings together and borrowed from relatives to make it one million rupees. I believe Allah will help me in getting my brother released soon.”

In Peshawar, Tariq Ali’s 15-year-old son was kidnapped last August but he is still without news. “Our rulers don’t consider the children of Pakistani citizens human beings.—AFP

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