FOR some time now, militants in Pakistan have been in the business of kidnapping ordinary people to raise funds from the ransom paid or to keep the latter hostage in the hope of the state agreeing to certain other demands made by them. Foreigners have also been kidnapped, and the Chinese appear to be a special target, probably because the militants expect the government to surrender to their demands quickly in view of Islamabad’s close ties with Beijing. On Tuesday, a faction of the outlawed TTP claimed it had kidnapped in D.I. Khan a Chinese cyclist en route to Iran.Asking the government to release “our fighters languishing in jails”, the TTP’s Shehryar group based in South Waziristan said the cyclist would be released when its demands were met. Both the TTP and the Baloch insurgents have kidnapped Chinese nationals earlier as well; in fact, some of the victims have been killed because the authorities did not provide them with adequate security or failed to recover them. True, security forces are overstretched because of the ongoing violence. But if it was not possible for them to provide the cyclist with security, did they at least warn him not to attempt a journey that was so hazardous?
The government-TTP talks are deadlocked, and the Taliban have not extended the ceasefire. There may be a relative lull in terrorist activities, but the TTP’s splinter groups have not stopped the violence, the blasts in the Islamabad district courts in March being just one example. The various factions feel free to act because there is infighting among the Taliban groups, and the shura is unable to discipline rival militias. The military, meanwhile, has put an all-out crackdown on hold, which is helping the TTP organise its killers for the future if the talks collapse. In the meantime, since the security forces’ chances of recovering the Chinese cyclist are slim, the government should urge the TTP negotiators to force the Shehryar group to release him.