Search on for missing scribe
By B. Muralidhar Reddy- PTI
Policemen searching a cemetery in Karachi on Saturday to locate the kidnapped U.S. journalist Daniel Pearl.
ISLAMABAD, FEB. 2. Suspense over the fate of the U.S. journalist, Daniel Pearl, believed to have been kidnapped by suspected militants in Karachi, continued with no breakthrough in the hunt for the suspects and the victim.
The only good news of the day came when the Pakistani papers received an e-mail in the evening dubbing the earlier message about Pearl being killed - on expiry of the extended deadline - a hoax. ``I am sorry... Please pardon me. It was a fake mail. The facilitator namely ``Arif'' was killed because the group thought it was sent from him. Please don't try to trace this mail. Pearl is (may be) alive and make real efforts to get him out,'' it said.
Earlier, the authorities in Karachi were quoted as saying they hunted all night but were yet to find Pearl or determine the authenticity of the conflicting claims. The search covered graveyards after an e-mail message sent to news organisations said the Wall Street Journal reporter had been executed and his body dumped in a cemetery.
Pearl disappeared in Karachi while working on a story about the alleged shoe-bomber, Richard Reid, and trying to contact some extremist groups. The National Movement for the Restoration of Pakistani Sovereignty owned responsibility for the kidnap and threatened to kill him at the expiry of a 24-hour ultimatum set for Wednesday, but extended it by another day. The first e-mail after the expiry of the second deadline said Pearl had been killed. ``We have killed Mr. Danny,'' it said and was signed ``anti-American.'' Then came the conflicting message.
A caller to Karachi's U.S. Consulate on Friday demanded a ransom of $ 2 million and the release from the U.S. custody, the former Taliban ambassador to Pakistan, Mullah Abdul Salam Zaeef, within 36 hours.
Suspect feigns ignorance
In another development, Mubarak Ali Shah, a suspected kidnapper of Pearl, who Pakistan claimed made phone calls to India, feigned ignorance about the kidnapping during his interrogation by police (a PTI report said). Shah, who surrendered before police, appeared to have provided no clues and pleaded ignorance.
Imran Khan's appeal
The former Pakistani cricket all-rounder, Imran Khan, has appealed for the release of Pearl, saying his abduction would not help the ``innocent victims'' in Afghanistan.
``As someone who has always advocated the cause of the innocent and defenceless, I appeal for the release of Daniel Pearl on humanitarian grounds so that he could safely return to his family and continue his career as a professional journalist,'' he said in a statement.
`No conclusive evidence yet'
PTI reports from Islamabad:
Pakistan's Interior Minister, Moinuddin Haider, said today that Islamabad had not yet got conclusive proof but only indications about India's involvement in the kidnapping of Mr. Pearl and said that it was still not clear to whom the alleged suspect in the case made telephone calls in India.
In an interview to the resident correspondent of the Middle East Broadcasting Centre here, Mr. Haider said, ``we do not have conclusive evidence as yet to surely say anything but there are indications that India is behind the kidnapping of the American journalist.''
Significantly, Mr. Haider said that no phone calls were made to India from the mobile of the alleged key suspect in the case, Mubarak Ali Shah Gilani, but from a telephone call card called jazz card. Also it was not clear to whom the phone calls were made.
Mr. Haider's comments were in variance with the remarks made by the Pakistan Foreign Minister, Abdul Sattar, who had said on Friday in Berlin that Gilani called some persons occupying important positions in India.
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