On Thursday, media outlets reported that an Iranian diplomat was kidnapped in Peshawar one day after a U.S. aid worker was killed and two days after a suicide bombing at a sports stadium in the city. According to news agencies, at least four gunmen abducted the man, identified as Heshmatollah Attarzadeh, [the embassy’s commercial attache in Peshawar], after killing his bodyguard, a Pakistani police officer. CNN quoted Iranian foreign ministry spokesman, Hassan Qashqavi, who called the incident, “an act of terrorism,” adding, “Pakistan should do its best to protect foreign diplomats and their residential places.” The NY Times cited police sources in its coverage, reporting, “Mr. Atharzadeh was snatched when he was on his way to work. The attackers sprayed bullets at the car and dragged the diplomat away.”
Several media outlets cited Pakistani officials, who condemned the incident Thursday. Both CNN and Dawn reported that Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi assured the Government of Iran and the family of the Iranian diplomat that the Pakistan government would take all necessary measures for his safe and early recovery. GEO Television reported that Asfandyar Wali Khan, the head of the Awami National Party, [the ruling party in the NWFP] also condemned the kidnapping, and the province’s Chief Minister, Amir Haider Hoti, directed the law enforcement agencies to take all necessary measures for the safe and early return of the abducted Iranian diplomat. According to GEO, Hoti “termed the incident as an attempt to create rift in relations between two brotherly countries.”
As with yesterday’s coverage of the killing of Stephen Vance, news agencies today framed the kidnapping in light of the deteriorating security situation in northwest Pakistan. According to BBC News,
…the security situation across Pakistan has steadily worsened over the past few years, with Taliban militants holding sway over a large stretch of North-West Frontier Province. But our correspondent says attacks on foreigners in Pakistan are rare. Across the border in Afghanistan aid workers and other foreigners have increasingly been targeted in recent months.
The NY Times reported, “Kidnappings in Hayatabad [the area where the Iranian envoy was abducted] have become so frequent in the last year that many well-to-do Pakistanis who lived in substantial homes there have fled, leaving the area to diplomats and middle-class families. Iran‘s Peshawar consulate is reportedly maintained “so that it can organize pilgrimages to Iran for Pakistani Shiites from Kurram in the tribal region. There is also considerable trade between Iran and the northwestern city.” Incidents like these, therefore, threaten to jeopardize such relations, with many foreign embassies and organizations increasingly likely to pull their employees out of the region.
A friend passed on extremely interesting article today related to militancy in the region. The UK Telegraph, in an article entitled, “The Failed Suicide Bomber Who Changed the War on Terror in Afghanistan,” interviewed Ramazan Mohammed in prison. Ramazan was one of the two suicide bombers slated to attack the Serena Hotel in Kabul this past January. However, although one of the bombers detonated his vest, Ramazan stopped just short of blowing himself up. The video interview is chilling, [click here to see the video], as the young man from northwest Pakistan tells the Telegraph’s Jack Fairweather why he became a terrorist. Fairweather wrote, “Ramazan’s road to radical Islam and his killing spree in Kabul inevitably included a spell at a Saudi-funded madrassa. His primary intention in attending one of these schools was not to join the Taliban, but to get an education, and in that he was not alone.” He noted,
[Ramazan] was one of a handful of students invited by the school’s imam to attend extra-curricular courses focusing on the evils of Western, and principally American, imperialism. A favoured teaching method was showing short videos of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay and images of the U.S. abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib in Iraq. The unworldly Ramazan was riveted and radicalized.
In the video interview, viewers are offered insight into Ramazan’s reasoning and logic. Perhaps his most chilling statement was, “I’ve no idea how many people I killed, but I am happy with the result…These people weren’t killed by me. They were killed by the will of God.”
Ramazan’s interview should be further testament to the ramifications of U.S. drone attacks in Pakistan’s tribal areas. Although militant masterminds will always use anti-American sentiment to recruit young and impressionable men [and women], these raids serve to further radicalize these populations and validate such hatred and intolerance. Last week President Asif Ali Zardari warned General David Petraeus, the newly appointed commander of CENTCOM, of this problem, terming such raids “counterproductive,” and noting they could harm the battle for hearts and minds. Today, Pakistani foreign ministry spokesman Mohammad Sadiq stated that U.S. drone attacks were “in violation of international law and in violation of all understandings between the two sides.”