Waiting, praying and crying: a father's vigil for kidnapped Sahil

Official says snatching of child may have a family connection

It is not hard to find the home from which five-year-old Sahil Saeed was snatched. On the edge of the colonial-era Grand Trunk Road, a fruit vendor gestures wearily to a narrow and winding street behind him.

"It's near the end, just ask anyone."

Inside the courtyard, some 50 men are crouched on red chairs awaiting news in the search for the boy and the gang that seized him from his grandmother's home in Jhelum, in Pakistan's Punjab region. He had been in the country for a two-week holiday with his father, and had been due to return to his home in Oldham on the day that he was snatched. With sombre expressions, the men fiddle with worry beads, stroke their beards, glance at the gate, or look up into the clear blue sky with hope.

A man drags in a reluctant black goat for Raja Naqqash Saeed, Sahil's father, to brush his hand over and bless, before it is slaughtered in a religious sacrifice and the meat donated to the poor.

Young, tall and lean, he stands apart from the paunchy older men who rise to console him. Mr Saeed's eyes reveal a man who has wept for hours and slept little since he last saw his son.

Mr Saeed has said that four men with guns and hand grenades attacked him and other relatives at the house yesterday, beating, kicking and slapping them during an ordeal that lasted for six hours. Sources said that the kidnapping had been "highly professional".

The attackers fled with the boy, along with household possessions, and told Mr Saeed that they wanted £100,000 for his return.

Every few seconds, Mr Saeed anxiously checks his pink mobile phone. He will not say if the kidnappers have called back. But the police, who say they are scouring the nearby area for suspects, have yet to produce the good news they promised.

"We're conducting raids and pursuing suspects," said police officer Shahbaz Ahmed Hinjra. "We've expanded from three search teams to four."

Wajid Shamsul Hasan, Pakistan's High Commissioner to London, told The Independent that the Punjab police have arrested some people, including the taxi driver who dropped them at the house. Through his interrogation, they have picked up at least eight others.

But it is difficult to tell whether the Punjab police are any closer to finding the kidnappers. Given the high-profile nature of the case, police are likely to be taking a back seat as Pakistan's leading spy agency leads inquiries. A senior government official said ransom calls were coming from foreign numbers, including one from Denmark. Jhelum, once the site of Alexander the Great's battle with the local King Porus, is now heavily concentrated with British-Pakistanis.

"Some of the local villages are filled with them," says Abdul Mateen, a local police officer. "Many of their second homes are here, sometimes with elderly people staying, or just empty."

The pound's cresting value against the rupee has seen ostentatious second homes spring up across the neighbourhood, with loud, gaudy designs, Greek columns, gilt-edged roofs and shimmering mirror tiles.

The senior government official believes that this may have been the motive. Scenting foreign wealth, members of the wider family or others in the area may have been involved.

"This happens in these areas all the time," he says. "When you come from the UK, they think you've got a lot of money with you. Racketeers and gangsters get tipped off."

Punjab province is troubled by family and more broadly, clan disputes, that have escalated into kidnappings and murders. There was no obvious political motive behind the boy's kidnap. In 2008 alone, 51 kidnappings were recorded in Jhelum. But on closer inspection, says the police official, there are only a handful of "genuine cases".

"In all the rest, a girl eloped and the family knew this was the case, but still registered a kidnapping."

The boy's mother made an emotional televised appeal from her home in Oldham on Thursday.

"I just want my son back safe," Akila Naqqash said. "We have got no idea why we were targeted – we don't have any money."

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Personal Tax Senior

£28000 - £37000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Customer and Markets Development Executive

£22000 - £29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company's mission is to ma...

Recruitment Genius: Guest Services Assistant

£13832 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This 5 star leisure destination on the w...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Account Manager

£20000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Account Manager is requ...

Day In a Page

A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

A nap a day could save your life

A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

If men are so obsessed by sex...

...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

Rolling in the deep

The bathing machine is back but with a difference
Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935
The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory