Child kidnappings a growing problem in Pakistan

The gang who snatched five-year-old Sahil Saeed could be linked to wider militant groups - with child kidnappings becoming a growing problem in Pakistan, leading experts said today.

The adduction was symptomatic of the "extremely weak police force and the general breakdown of law and order in Punjab", said Farzana Shaikh, author of Making Friends With Pakistan.



Pakistan is among the top five most dangerous countries in the world for kidnap and ransom with incidents in the "mid-to-high hundreds" each year, according to estimates from global security firm red24.



But Ms Shaikh said it was rare to see a Briton targeted.



She said: "Firstly, we know very little about the actual circumstances of the kidnapping. We have just hearsay and it is difficult to know whether it is just a criminal gang or wider militant groups, which are becoming more widespread and well established in Punjab.



"If it's the latter then it is a concern - if it is the former then it would raise fewer worries from a wider British perspective."



Kidnappings of Britons in the country remain rare but the incident could damage Pakistan's already battered reputation for safety, she said.



"I think it will raise the temperature and bring the spotlight back onto Pakistan which is already struggling with a poor image.



"This is too early to suggest if kidnappings are a growing trend - I suspect not - it's important not to get too out of hand."



Punjab is a particularly dangerous area thanks to the spread of militancy since the 1990s, she added.



"That militancy has spread out from the tribal regions to Punjab. This is well-documented.



"They have long been attached to the Punjab and some even have links with al Qaida.



"Unquestionably this will be of concern to police, especially considering the worrying indictment that members of the Punjabi government have been reluctant to renounce their contact with militant groups."



Lee Niblett, of red24, said Pakistani government statistics on kidnap were unreliable.



But he added: "Pakistan is in the top five countries in the world for kidnap for ransom incidents.



"Pakistani government statistics on the kidnap and ransom threat, like many in the developing world, are unreliable.



"Many incidents are not reported to the authorities for fear of retaliation by the kidnappers or of police corruption, collusion or ineptitude.



"There are also wide disparities in figures between police departments and other law enforcement agencies.



"However, we at red24 estimate that actual kidnap and ransom incidents probably number in the mid to high hundreds annually.



"There appears to have been a spike in kidnappings at the start of this year.



"Kidnappings in Pakistan are carried out by Pakistani militants, separatists, professional criminal groups and inexperienced and desperate criminal individuals.



"The majority of kidnappings for ransom, however, involve criminal gangs who normally target local businessmen.



"Although foreign nationals have been targeted, particularly by Pakistani-Taliban, other Islamist militant groups and Baluch separatists, the majority of victims remain local nationals."



The abduction of children in Pakistan is an increasing problem, Mr Niblett added.



"By targeting youngsters, kidnappers hope to play on the parents' emotions to secure quick and sizeable ransom payments."

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
14 best kids' hoodies

14 best kids' hoodies

Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

The acceptable face of the Emirates

Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk