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Who Kidnapped An Afghan Politician In Islamabad?

Fazlullah Wahidi (file photo).
Fazlullah Wahidi (file photo).

A week after Afghan politician Fazlullah Wahidi was abducted from an upscale neighborhood of the Pakistani capital, Islamabad, there are no definitive clues about his whereabouts.

None among Pakistan's myriad Islamist militant groups has claimed responsibility for his kidnapping, and the Afghan Taliban has denied any role in his abduction. Pakistani police and intelligence agencies have reportedly made no progress despite "some encouraging initial leads."

Informed Afghan and Pakistani sources now say Wahidi was probably picked up by Pakistan's premiere Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency. These sources, requesting anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue, say Wahidi was likely being probed about his alleged role in helping the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) to carve out sanctuaries in the eastern Afghan province of Kunar, which borders Pakistan.

Wahidi was the governor of Kunar from 2007 to 2013 and was vocal against alleged Pakistani support for the Afghan Taliban and what he called Islamabad's interference in his country. Pakistan, on the other hand, has alleged that TTP leaders carved out a safe haven in Kunar and neighboring eastern Afghan provinces after they were driven out of their stronghold in the Swat district of northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province in 2009.

"[Wahidi's abduction by the Pakistani intelligence] is the only plausible explanation. Otherwise, somebody would have made demands," a source told RFE/RL's Gandhara website. "Such a daring, high-profile abduction also sends a message to the Afghan elite."

Relatives of hundreds of "missing persons" -- a Pakistani euphemism for victims of enforced disappearances -- have often accused the ISI of abducting suspected militants and separatists. In some cases, victims have been gone for years while others have died in custody.

Another source says Wahidi’s abduction from the heart of Islamabad on February 12 only increases suspicions that the ISI was involved. "This is more than likely the case," the source said.

According to his nephew Zabihullah, Wahidi was picked up while walking near a market in Islamabad's F-7 residential neighborhood. Zabihullah said one of the vehicles had a blue light like those mounted on vehicles used by Pakistan's law enforcement officials. Wahidi was visiting Islamabad along with relatives to obtain a visa to visit the United Kingdom.

Pakistan's Inter-Services Public Relations, the military's media, did not reply to an e-mail requesting a comment about claims that Wahid is in the custody of the country's powerful security services.

Afghanistan has urged Pakistan to find and free Wahidi. Kabul has asked Islamabad "to use all their tools and possibilities to identify the group of kidnappers and take action to free Wahidi immediately," according to an Afghan Foreign Ministry statement on February 13.

Hazrat Omar Zakhilwal, the new Afghan envoy in Islamabad, says the abduction might discourage Afghans from visiting Pakistan.

"The case, if not resolved as hoped, could severely impact prominent Afghans’ traveling to Pakistan -- something that actually needs to be encouraged and promoted for broadening positive interactions between our two countries," he said.


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    RFE/RL Gandhara

    RFE/RL Gandhara provides incisive analysis and in-depth coverage of security, political, social, economic, diplomatic, and human rights issues in Afghanistan and Pakistan through features and expanded news, interviews, and multimedia stories.