Friday, November 1, 2013

Pakistan: Update--Still No News On Status, Whereabouts of Two Czech Women Kidnapped in March 2013

According to The Associated Press, a video of two Czech women, Antonie Chrastecka and Hana Humpalova, both 24, who were abducted by gunmen shortly after they crossed into Pakistan from Iran in a mini-van depicts both of them as speaking and alive in a video-clip reportedly shot on August 23.

The two women were on the road from Iran to Quetta, the capital of Pakistan's southwest Baluchistan province, when they were seized on March 13, 2013.

The Czech Foreign Ministry said Wednesday (October 30) that the video was delivered to the Czech Embassy in Islamabad and was released to the media at the request of the families of Chrastecka and Humpalova.

Czech President Milos Zeman said earlier this month the two were being held on the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan and officials were negotiating in hopes of getting them released. The kidnappers are unknown.

COMMENT: For clarification, independent sources suggest that no one really knows where the two Czech women are being held. 

There have been previous video-clip releases in April and July from the two hostages, clearly scripted, seemingly for the benefit of an English-speaking audience, even though the young women spoke in accented and broken English. 

The two psychology students were kidnapped while being escorted by a tribal policeman after crossing into Pakistan from Iran. 

According to Reuters, the kidnappers of Chrastecka and Humpalova have demanded that Aafia Siddiqui, 41, a neuro-scientist who was given an 86-year sentence by a US court in 2010 for shooting at FBI agents and soldiers in Afghanistan be released in exchange for the two Czech hostages. 

Dr. Siddiqui emigrated to the US in 1990 and obtained a PhD in 2001 from Brandeis University.   

In early 2003, Siddiqui returned to Pakistan. In March 2003, she was named as a courier and financier for al-Qaeda by Khalid Sheikh Muhammad and was placed on a "wanted for questioning" list by the FBI. She subsequently disappeared until she was arrested in Ghazni, Afghanistan, with documents and notes for making bombs plus containers of sodium cyanide. 

Siddiqui was indicted in New York City District Court in September 2008 on charges of attempted murder and assault stemming from an incident in an interview with US authorities in Ghazni, charges which Siddiqui denied. After 18 months in detention, she was tried and convicted in early 2010 and sentenced to 86 years in prison in a federal detention facility in Texas. 

The abduction of the two hostages occurred some 100 kilometers east of the Iranian border. 

The kidnap victims had planned to go to India via Quetta and Lahore. What they did not realize, though, is that traveling by van through Iran, although cheaper, brought with it considerably more personal risk of abduction.

As I have said so often in the past, ALL foreign travelers should enter Pakistan ONLY by air. Tourists are strongly discouraged from traveling to Pakistan.