Tariq Azizuddin in Taliban Hands

The Dubai-based station al-Arabiya has broadcast video of Pakistan’s Ambassador to Afghanistan Tariq Azizuddin, who was kidnapped in the Khyber Agency in February. He says he is being held by Taliban forces and requested that their demands be met so he can be released.

The station translated Azizuddin’s comments from Urdu into Arabic. Later, GEO News also broadcasted the video in its original Urdu.

The ambassador says, “I am Tariq Azizuddin, the ambassador of Pakistan to Afghanistan.  On Februrary 11, we were on our way toward Afghanistan in our official car.  We were grabbed in the Khyber Agency after Ali mosque…by mujahideen of the Taliban…We are their guests…”

He asked the government of Pakistan to comply with the Taliban demands, which he did not specify. Interestingly, he asked that Pakistan’s ambassadors in Tehran and Beijing “to do all they can to protect their lives and to answer all the demands of the Mujahedeen of Taliban in order to secure their release.”

Rahimullah Yusufzai tells GEO that the Taliban requested the release of 10 Afghan and Pakistani Taliban, including Mullah Obaidullah. He also said that the Taliban let Azizuddin speak with his family twice. Previously the Taliban have been said to request the release of Mansoor Dadullah, captured by Pakistani security forces immediately before Azizuddin’s kidnapping.

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Question of the Day: Where is Tariq Azizuddin?

It’s been almost two months since the kidnapping of Pakistan’s ambassador to Afghanistan, Tariq Azizuddin.  His disappearance has received scant coverage.  Granted his story has been drowned out by subsequent developments–namely, the elections and prolonged process of forming a government.  But his name curiously goes unmentioned in the Pakistani press.

Isn’t it time for Pakistanis to ask, where is Ambassador Azizuddin?  Who has him?  What do they want?

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Pakistani Taliban: We Won’t Interfere in Elections; We Didn’t Kidnap Pakistani Ambassador

Maulvi Omar, the spokesperson for the Baitullah Mehsud-led Tehreek-e Taliban-e Pakistan (Taliban Movement of Pakistan) tells BBC Urdu that his organization will abide by its pre-election ceasefire commitment and would not derail the process.

He told Reuters, “Neither do we support the process of the election nor do we have any opposition to it and if any attack takes place before or on election day, our mujahid won’t be involved in it.”

Omar also stated that his group has no links to or knowledge behind the kidnapping of Pakistan Ambassador to Afghanistan Tariq Azizuddin.

A report from al-Jazeera (apparently by Ahmad Zaidan), channeled through GEO TV and some Pakistani dailies, claims that local Taliban seized Azizuddin with the intent to exchange him for Mansoor Dadullah, an Afghan Taliban figure arrested by Pakistani security forces on the same day.

Since Mehsud has limited control over other Taliban factions, it is conceivable that Taliban local to the Khyber Agency (one of the seven tribal areas) are responsible. The area, however, is also proliferate with general bandits.

Aside from the major question of who kidnapped Azizuddin, it remains unclear why the Pakistani ambassador traveled to Kabul from Peshawar, his home city, by car when flights are regular. One report claims he was to stop by the Pakistani consulate in Jalalabad. Was his specific business could be related to his disappearance? Interestingly, while the Pakistani government has not yet confirmed that Azizuddin was kidnapped, Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai seems to insist that he was, which begets the question of what does he know.

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Arif Rafiq, a Washington, DC-based consultant on Middle East and South Asian political and security issues. [About]

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