PESHAWAR:17 September : The brother of the kidnapped Vice-Chancellor of Islamia College University, Ajmal Khan, has said the government could secure his release from the custody of the militants by releasing a jailed militant.
Major (r) Mustafa Kamal, the eldest of three brothers, told ‘The News’ from his village, Utmanzai, in Charsadda district that Ajmal Khan told him on the phone on the second day of Eidul Fitr last month that his captors wanted the government to release one of their jailed colleagues, Hammad, in exchange for his freedom.
“Ajmal Khan told me that earlier the militants wanted four of their men freed in return for his release. He said the government had already freed one of their men while they weren’t really bothered about the other two. However, Ajmal Khan made it clear that his captors were insisting that they won’t make a deal unless Hammad was freed,” Mustafa Kamal recalled.
Mustafa said he doesn’t know Hammad and was unaware if it was his real name. “I don’t know if he is Hammad or Imad and who is holding him and where. Ajmal Khan wasn’t able to provide me details,” he added.
Mustafa, who retired from the Pak Army in 1988, narrated the story of Ajmal Khan’s Eidul Fitr phone call to him at a recent protest meeting organised by the Amn Jirga in Mardan.
Led by the jirga head and former provincial minister Syed Kamal Shah, the public rally criticised the provincial government for not doing enough to recover Ajmal Khan two years after his kidnapping.
In his speech at the Mardan rally, Mustafa Kamal told the protesters that Ajmal Khan informed him that he could be freed if the government released Hammad as demanded by his captors. The retired major also recalled that Chief Minister Ameer Haider Hoti had told their jirga that met him several months ago to seek his help in Ajmal Khan’s recovery that the government had managed to pool Rs35 million and handed it over to a third party to pay to the kidnappers as ransom in case a deal was made.
According to Mustafa, former Governor Owais Ghani had told their jirga at the time that Rs20 million had been set aside to pay as ransom for securing Ajmal Khan’s release. He said the remaining Rs15 million were raised by the ANP-led provincial government and now Rs35 million were available and could be paid as ransom should a need arise.
Mustafa and other family members have been making efforts to highlight the issue since Ajmal Khan’s kidnapping on September 7, 2010 from outside his home. As the president of the Khwazikhel Jirga that has been representing the sub-tribes in the Utmanzai and adjoining villages in Charsadda district, Mustafa Kamal has led delegations to hold meetings with top political and military officials and demand concrete measures for recovering Ajmal Khan. “We were told that the kidnappers cannot be trusted as they change their statements and demands. It was also pointed out to us that one reason for the delay in striking a deal for Ajmal Khan’s recovery was division between the militants about their share in the ransom money. We don’t know much because we aren’t negotiating with the militants,” he added.
On a number of occasions, the jirga and Ajmal Khan’s family has appealed to the militants to release him on humanitarian grounds. They were told that Ajmal Khan was apolitical even though he was a close relative of the ruling Awami National Party President Asfandyar Wali Khan.
Besides, the kidnappers were time and again reminded about Ajmal Khan’s contribution as a teacher and educationist having served as VC of the Gomal University and Islamia College University. The kidnappers would have known these facts and precisely for these reasons he was kidnapped as they knew the government would accept their demands for securing freedom for someone as important as Ajmal Khan.
As the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan or its affiliates had earlier kidnapped the Kohat University of Science and Technology VC Dr Lutfullah Kakakhel and forced the government to accept most of their demands in return for his release seven months later, it was obvious that they had seized Ajmal Khan with the aim to secure release of more of their jailed colleagues and also demand a higher amount of ransom money.
The phone call that Mustafa received on Eidul Fitr came almost after a year as the kidnappers had earlier allowed Ajmal Khan to last call him in September 2011. He said the family was worried after having seen his last video released by the kidnappers as Ajmal Khan didn’t look to be in good shape. “But when Ajmal Khan was allowed to phone me on Eid his voice was sharp and his morale was high. He told me he was being treated well and getting his medicines. Ajmal Khan disclosed that he had been handed over to a family and was now living with it,” Mustafa added.The news.