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Agony of hostages’ families about to end

by Saher Baloch
Wednesday, May 16, 2012

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After a long wait of 18 months, the families of the Pakistani crew held hostage on MV Albedo by Somali pirates received good news on Tuesday when a business tycoon announced to pay the remaining Rs130 million ransom amount. The 22 crew members were taken hostage on November 2010 and the pirates had threatened to kill them.
 
After notice was taken earlier in the day by President Asif Ali Zardari for making immediate efforts to arrange money for the crew’s rescue, Malik Riaz Hussain, Chairman Bahria Town, came forward and announced to pay the remaining Rs130 million that the family could not arrange by themselves.
 
Governor Sindh Dr Ishratul Ebad Khan met the families of the hostages along with Citizen Police Liaison Committee (CPLC) chief Ahmed Chinoy and human rights activist Ansar Burney at the Governor’s House in the afternoon.
 
Later in the evening, the governor told the media that arrangements have been made and the hostages would hopefully be released in a couple of days.
 
Though the help came quite late, on the day of the thrice extended deadline to be precise, the families were overjoyed on hearing the news.
 
The governor said that they took some time to come forward as the owners of the Malaysian flagship were negotiating with the pirates for eight months.
 
MV Albedo is one of the 30 ships that are in the control of Somali pirates in the Gulf of Aden. The governor was asked if an alternative mechanism could be arranged to “change the routes” so that the incessant seizing of the ships can be avoided, to which he said: “These ships are privately owned and it is up to the owners to make the safety of the crew their priority”.
 
The families, who were looking tired yet happy, said that it all seems “unreal” at the moment. Though there is happiness for sure, there is an apparent feeling of fear as well since the pirates are getting “aggressive” by the minute.
 
For the past one-and-a-half years, the families have been doing everything that they could to arrange the Rs160 million ransom money as well as holding meetings with the CPLC chief and talking to the media. They did manage to arrange some of the money with the help of friends and relatives but it was not enough.
 
Fund-raisers were arranged where the family members were seen standing on roadsides asking for money and mostly helped by Abdul Sattar Edhi or other philanthropists and celebrities.
 
But it became clear to them during the fund-raising that their efforts will not get them even half of what was being demanded by the pirates.
 
“It could have taken us longer to arrange the money,” said Neelam Mujtaba, wife of a sailor, who had come to the Governor’s House meeting. “I’m grateful that we are being helped by the government, and am thankful for all the help that we have got on the way,” she said, wiping away her tears.


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