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Pak denies any deal as Azizuddin returns safe

world Updated: May 18, 2008 00:47 IST
Amit Baruah
Amit Baruah
Hindustan Times
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Pakistan's ambassador to Afghanistan, kidnapped by Islamist militants on February 11, was released on Friday night after more than three months in custody.

Tariq Azizuddin, who reached his Rawalpindi home on Saturday afternoon, was released following a "law enforcement action", Rehman Malik, Adviser to the Minister of the Interior, insisted in Rawalpindi.

"There was no deal of any kind," Malik stressed in the presence of Aziduddin. Malik, however, said details of the "law enforcement action", which led to the envoy's release, would be provided later.

Some 40 militants have been released in exchange for the freedom of Pakistani security personnel held by Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud in recent days. Though there has been speculation about the envoy's release being part of a "deal", Malik stoutly denied reports of a swap.

Talking to the press outside his Rawlpindi home, Azizuddin said he was kidnapped along with his guard and driver between Peshawar and Landikotal while driving to Kabul.

According to Azizuddin, the heavily-armed militants who kidnapped him did not know he was the Pakistani ambassador to Afghanistan. He had to identify himself, the envoy said.

He was hit twice on the head with rifle butts on the day of the kidnapping, Azizuddin maintained, adding that he was not tortured otherwise. However, the ambassador said he had little contact with his captors, who spoke Pushto with an accent.
Though unable to identify the three places in which he was kept, the Ambassdor asserted confidently that he was on Pakistani territory all the time.

Asked if he had heard the sound of shots before he was freed as part of the “law enforcement action”, Azizuddin replied in the negative.

The Yusuf Raza Gilani government has come under considerable fire for reopening a dialogue with the militants and exchanging militants for soldiers being held by the Taliban.

The United States, especially, is concerned by this new dialogue with the militants. In the past, Pakistani government agreements with the militants have only amounted to a temporary lull in fighting.