However, in the aftermath of Sahil’s rescue more questions are being raised. For one his kidnapping has shed light to the awful spectre of child kidnappings that plague in our country. It has, more importantly, shed light on the states indifference to kidnappings and the lack of support available to victims.
Disclaimer: Before I continue I would like to this opportunity to clearly recognize that while the country faces many security challenges in the face of terror threats across the country, it may be unfair to expect much from an over stretched, under paid, poorly trained, under staffed and poorly resourced police force.
Let’s continue, Rana Sanaullah, the erstwhile Punjab law minister if not embroiled in enough controversy has apparently put his foot in his mouth once again. He is quoted as saying that: there had never been so much government effort put into a kidnappings case. He said Pakistani intelligence was also involved in the boy’s recovery. What does that say of our society and government at large? Does a crime have to make world headlines before security agencies take note and spurned to act? Or is this a question of the relationship between our political masters and wider society?
I for one see this as evidence of, rather disappointingly of what I already have known all along. Our powers to be treat their citizens with the contempt of second class citizens, a passing inconvenience. For those who are local victims of kidnappings, the media attention that the disappearance of Sahil created is the equivalent of pouring salt on an open wound.
Just such a victim is Ali who remarks, “Our rulers don’t consider the children of Pakistani citizen’s human beings. They don’t act promptly as they do if a foreigner goes missing,” He continues, “But if a child with another nationality gets kidnapped in Pakistan then they do the maximum and even visit their homes,”
Similarly, another distraught mother who unfortunately unlike Sahils mother does not hold a British passport, cannot count on consular support or the local media’s coverage of her child’s kidnapping, remarked standing at the home of Sahil’s relatives in Jhelum: “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,”
Given the way Sahil Saeeds kidnapping unfolded, an important point to note is that once mobilized our security establishment seems able to retrieve kidnapped victims. Police commanders can be empathetic and sympathetic to victims. As the head police official of Jhelum district commented to a BBC reporter, “I feel the pain of a childs kidnapping, I after all have two children myself.”
This ordeal has at the very least given us evidence of the fact that given the “right” circumstances not only are our officials able to empathetically share the grief of victims, working with intelligence agencies they are actually able to recover kidnapped victims.
So it seems that our police force coupled with support from “intelligence agencies” is able to overcome its shortcomings. That is its existence as an over stretched, under paid, poorly trained, under staffed and poorly resourced police force.
As a police force it must be encouraged to share these newly discovered values with the rest of the Pakistani citizenry. The Government should commit itself to the high standards that it has displayed in this instance and use it as a benchmark for tackling future kidnapping cases. The media may want to give as much attention to victims who do not happen to hold a foreign passport and we as citizens should perhaps develop some empathy with our fellow citizens who face such ordeals and offer support.
While Ali and the distraught mother mentioned in this article have both highlighted their grievances, we naturally blame the government for its apathy. This apathy will not be magically overcome by a benevolent change of heart amongst our political leaders and security heads. The citizenry must offer overwhelming support to victims and generate unrelenting pressure on the state to act!