Pak claims to have located Solecki

UN Secretary General Ban ki-Moon, on Thursday night in a telephone conversation with Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari and urged him to ensure the safe release of UNHCR employee, John Solecki, who is being held by Baluch nationalists since his kidnapping from the provincial capital Quetta on February 2.

Zardari is reported to have informed Ban that his government was doing all it could to secure a safe release for Solecki.

Pakistan late on Thursday night said it had mapped the whereabouts of abducted UNHCR employee, John Solecki, but added that it would avoid hasty action on the matter, as it could endanger Solecki.

Solecki, 49, chief of UNHCR ops in Baluchistan, was ambushed by armed kidnappers as he was on his way to work, the abductors shot dead his Pakistani driver before taking him captive.

“The people who kidnapped him (Solecki) have been identified and where he was kept was also identified,” Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi was quoted as saying by Reuters.

While refusing to get into specifics, Qureshi said that the area where Solecki was being held had been surrounded by the Pakistan army.

Earlier, a little known Baluch group, the Baluchistan Liberation United Front (BLUF), had claimed responsibility for the kidnapping and said they were holding Solecki, whose health, according to BLUF, was failing.

The BLUF demands the release of nearly a thousand prisoners in return of the UN official, and threatened to eliminate him, if their demands were not met.

The BLUF has been pushing back the deadlines, it has released, for the captive-prisoner exchange the last of which expired Thursday.

The BLUF had earlier sought UN intervention to push for the release of some 150 women prisoners being held in Pakistani torture cells by the authorities, the armed insurgents also seek resolution of the issue of Baluch independence under the Geneva Convention.

With Solecki’s fate still hanging in balance, Qureshi said the authorities were exercising utmost caution.

“We have to secure him safely and we do not want to take any step that may lead to any harm to him by the kidnappers, in nervousness or in haste,” he said.

Baluchistan’s provincial (state) government said late on Thursday that the list of prisoners put forth by BLUF was being “intensively scrutinised”.

Baluchistan, largely a barren stretch of land, is the largest of Pakistan’s four provinces.

Proponents of Baluch independence have for decades sought control of the region’s huge gas reserves and other natural resources, which they say were being exploited to benefit other Pakistani provinces while Baluchs continued to remain at the bottom of Pakistan’s poverty indices.

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