Monday, February 20, 2012

Indian journalist, family murdered; hand of mining mafia suspected

The brutal murder of a senior journalist and his entire family Saturday night in Madhya Pradesh's Umaria distict, over 450 km from here, has sent shockwaves across the State with fingers being pointed at the illegal coal mining mafia active in the region.

Journalist Chandrika Rai (42), his wife Durga (40) and their two teenage children — son Jalaj (19) and daughter Nisha (17) — were murdered using a sharp object at their residence, police said. The bodies were found in four separate rooms.

Mr. Rai was a freelance journalist who contributed regularly to the Hindi daily Navbharat and English daily The Hitavada. He had been writing consistently against the illegal coal mining in the region. He had written a series of articles alleging the involvement of a local BJP leader in illegal mining.

The district is known for the Umaria coalfield under the control of the South Eastern Coalfields Ltd. However, illegal coal mining is also rampant in the region.

“The local illegal mining mafia has resorted to this horrific crime to silence the power of his pen,” said Congress MLA and leader of the Opposition in the State Assembly Ajay Singh. “The BJP government gives open protection to the local mining mafia. Recently Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan and some of his Ministers were seen sharing the stage with wanted criminals. In such a situation, criminals have no fear of the law and commit such mind-numbing crimes with impunity whenever their interests are harmed.”

The crime came to light when Mr. Rai's brother broke open the door on Saturday evening after he became suspicious on seeing it locked from the outside the entire day.

Linked to abduction?

The Umaria police believe the murders could also be linked to the kidnap of the seven-year-old son of a government official for ransom on Wednesday. He was rescued by the police on Thursday.

“DGP Raut visited the crime scene on Sunday and has ordered an STF probe,” Umaria SP Manohar Singh Jamara told The Hindu. “He also spoke to journalists here and assured them that the criminals would be brought to book as soon as possible. We have constituted a team to look into the crime and assist the STF which will arrive here tomorrow [Monday].”

Banned extremists flock to Islamabad, rally and rant
Several thousand Pakistanis poured onto the streets of Islamabad on Monday, chanting "death to America" and demanding holy war at a rally whipped up by right-wing, religious and banned organisations. It was the latest show of support for Defence of Pakistan, a coalition of around 40
parties chaired by a cleric dubbed the father of the Taliban that include organisations blacklisted at home and abroad as terror groups.

"Today, we have gathered here to raise a voice of protest against US intervention in Pakistan," chairman Maulana Sami ul-Haq, who runs an extremist madrassa that educated several Taliban leaders, told AFP. Also present was member Hamid Gul, who headed Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence agency during the 1980s Pakistani-sponsored war against Soviet troops in Afghanistan that gave rise to al Qaeda and the Taliban.

His membership has helped fuel suspicions that Pakistan's security establishment is backing the coalition as a means of exerting pressure on the weak government and whipping up rhetoric against the unpopular US alliance.

"Our protest is against the possible resumption of NATO supplies, US and Indian occupation and to strengthen the country's defence," Haq told AFP.

"America wants to break Pakistan into pieces," he added in reference to a resolution sponsored by three US lawmakers calling for self-determination in Pakistan's insurgency-torn southwestern province of Baluchistan.

The alliance, which uses Twitter and Facebook to promote its message, was set up after US air strikes killed 24 Pakistani soldiers on the Afghan border in late November, which saw Pakistan shut its Afghan border to NATO supplies.

"Death to America" and "America deserves one treatment: jihad, jihad" shouted the crowd in a bustling commercial area, an AFP reporter said.

The coalition has already attracted large turnouts at a series of rallies across the country that some see as a build up to contesting Pakistan's next general election, which could be called within months.

Allah Buksh, a senior police official, said 2,500 attended the demonstration as it got underway, but witnesses estimated the crowd at 3,500 as hundreds of riot police, armed with batons and wearing bullet-proof jackets stood guard.

"America can never be our friend, it is our biggest enemy. America will be defeated in Afghanistan and divided into pieces," Mian Aslam, a former lawmaker from the religious Jamaat-e-Islami party told the rally.

Banners strung up in Islamabad denounced US drone strikes on Islamist militants, the government's decision to grant India most favoured nation status in a bid to ease trade, and re-opening the Afghan border to NATO convoys.

"Go America Go," "No to NATO," "Arrogant Americans - others are also human beings," and "the chains of slavery will now break up," they read.

"The friend of the US is a traitor," "the friend of (Pakistani President Asif Ali) Zardari is a traitor" and "the friend of (Afghan President Hamid) Karzai is traitor," shouted the crowd.

The government banned three key members of the alliance from attending, including Hafiz Saeed, who heads Jamaat-ud-Dawa, seen as a front for the Lashkar-e-Taiba militant group blamed for the 2008 Mumbai attacks.

Organisers said they would not challenge the ban. "We have installed 10,000 chairs for today's rally and expect a very successful show," Yahya Mujahid, a spokesman for JuD, told AFP.

"Hafiz Muhammad Saeed will not come to Islamabad to avoid confrontation with the government and will not attend the rally," Mujahid said.

Uzma Ayub, family starving as govt help stops


The gang rape victim Uzma Ayub, who now is a mother of an infant girl, has suddenly been dumped by the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government and is virtually close to starving. She has appealed to the chief justice of Peshawar High Court (PHC), provincial government and the NGOs to provide her food and help on an emergency basis.

She told The News on phone that when the CJ had ordered to provide her a residence in Peshawar, he had also directed the authorities concerned to facilitate them with all the needs but now food and rations have finished and she and her daughter and family are starving.

Uzma said that a few days back when an NGO woman had taken away her baby, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Information Minister Mian Iftikhar Hussain had come to her along with the minister for women development and assured her full support and all needed provisions but then no one bothered to call back.

“As for the NGOs, the chairperson of the women rights Zubaida Khatoon has asked me never to contact her again. Is this the way the NGOs work and help the needy?” she questioned. She said her only brother left earns Rs5,000 which is not enough to meet the expenses of two families as her father and other siblings are still in their village home in Karak.

When asked about the DNA test of her daughter she said the report has not been released yet but when her daughter was hospitalised a few days back, she and her brother Zafranullah had heard from the doctor that one accused Nasibullah had been declared as the father of her daughter Zeba.

“But the report has not been confirmed yet and it has not been presented before the court,” she added. Uzma Ayub also appealed to the chief justice of PHC to arrest Ibrahim, the alleged murderer of her brother Alamzeb, who is still at large and moving freely in Karak while the police over there have given him a free hand.

Peace in Afghanistan, FATA, KP interlinked

Chief Minister Khyber Pakthunkhwa (KP) Amir Haider Khan Hoti on Monday said that people of Fata have rendered enormous sacrifices in the struggle against terrorism and termed peace and stability in Afghanistan, Fata and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa as inter-linked.

Speaking to the visiting Japanese Ambassador to Pakistan Hiroshi Oe who called on him here at his office, Hoti said that bringing FATA in main national stream was demand of the hour for which political and administrative reforms were essential adding, the process has already commenced.

This process of political and administrative reforms should be in accordance with aspiration of the people of FATA and phased wise, he said.

The CM lauded Japan assistance for development and construction of Pakistan particularly Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and said that government and people of the province have highly revered these services.

The people of the province have gallantly faced terrorism and natural calamities like challenges in the past due to which situation regarding reconstruction of flood devastated infrastructure and law and order in the province were improved, he said.

The chief minister thanked Japanese government for extending assistance during 2005 earthquake and 2010 flooding.

Regarding national energy crisis, the CM said that there was an apparent gape between demand and supply of electricity in the country, adding, no attention was paid to production of low cost electricity in the past but the provincial government has chalked out strategy for making demand and supply of electricity congruent to each other.

He said that capacity of producing hydel power of the province will be used and certain projects in Swat and Chitral in this connection will be launched in spring season.

The chief minister also apprised Japanese ambassador of gradual increase in production of oil and gas in southern districts. The ambassador lauded government’s development strategy and assured that his government will continue work on projects for welfare of the people of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Japanese Ambassador and Amir Haider Khan Hoti also discussed matters pertaining to bilateral relations, situation in the region, and progress on the schemes under way in the province with Japanese assistance.

Shahbaz Sharif : ‘Where is your merit now , Mr CM?’

A strong campaign has started against Lahore Region Colleges Director Rana Naseem Akhtar in 73 colleges of the city where professor are alleging that Naseem’s appointment was made on the basis of favouritism, Pakistan Today learnt on Sunday.
College community alleged that Akhtar was the part of a mafia that had set up ghost centres at colleges and added that a group of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz MPAs had played a role in Akhtar’s appointment since they were running their business through him. According to college teachers, Akhtar, a junior officer, was made the director when there were more than 70 senior professors available to fill the slot.
“It is a tragedy that professors in grade 20 and higher are working under him,” a professor, asking not to be named, said. At a time when educationists are condemning the appointment of a third divisoner dean at historic Punjab University, college teachers have also started campaigning against the appointment of Akhtar. College teachers alleged that Punjab government was appointing third divisoners on important seats at universities and said the post of director colleges was not even advertised. “Such appointments are ruining the Education Department and it seems that there is nobody to advise the chief minister on these matters,” a professor, asking not to be named, said, adding “Punjab government is backing a candidate because of his strong background whereas merit is being violated, clearly.”
“We have spent our lives for the education department and now we are being sidelined during the tenure of CM Shahbaz Sharif. The CM does not bother to investigate what is going on in the colleges and that is destroying the education system,” another professor said, adding “where is your merit now, Mr CM?”
“Rana Naseem helps PML-N MPAs in their nefarious businesses and that is why he was appointed. We opposed this move but nobody paid attention to us,” a Higher Education Department (HED) official said. When contacted, Rana Naseem denied all allegations and said, “I was appointed on merit and I have taken many steps to improve the education system.” He said there was no rule that stopped a 19 grade officer from being the boss of an official in grade 20 or higher. He also denied being part of a mafia.

Hina Rabbani Khar likely to meet to meet Clinton in Britain

Foreign minister Hina Rabbani Khar, who is in London, is expected to hold a meeting with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in a bid to place bilateral ties on an even keel.

Khar, who left for a four-day visit to Britain Sunday, is scheduled to hold talks with her British counterpart and other officials.
Reports said she was expected to ask British leaders to use their influence with the US to end drone strikes in Pakistan’s tribal areas.
Pakistan's High Commissioner in London Wajid Shamsul Hassan had recently called on Prime Minister David Cameron to condemn drone attacks and help stop them.
Foreign Office spokesman Abdul Basit said all issues would be discussed during Khar’s visit.
"When we will begin talks, every issue will come under discussion. We will definitely express our reservations over it (drone attacks)," Basit told the media.
Khar's visit will focus on a dialogue on "enhanced strategic" relations between Pakistan and Britain and on strengthening bilateral cooperation in economy, trade and education.
Khar is expected to hold a quiet and unpublicised meeting with US secretary of state Clinton in London on February 23, a leading daily quoted its sources as saying.
Pakistan's ambassador to the US, Sherry Rehman, is also expected to attend the meeting, the report said.

Renowned actress Tamanna Begum passes away

Renowned Film and TV actress Tamanna Begum passed away after protracted illness in Karachi on Monday, a private TV channel reported.
Tamanna Begum was born in Lahore and started her career with Radio Pakistan and also worked in some theatre plays. Soon she moved onto acting in movies and appeared alongside the likes of Talat Iqbal and Waheed Murad.
She quickly rose to fame with her splendid performances, and several of her films turned out to be huge successes.

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Spring tree plantation campaign to start on Monday

The Spring Tree Plantation Campaign 2012 will kick off in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa on Monday in which 9.820 million saplings of different species would be planted with assistance of education institutions, armed forces, NGOs and civil society in a bid to make the province lush green.

Environment Minister KP, Wajid Ali Khan told APP on Sunday that Chief Minister Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has been requested to inaugurate the campaign. He said planting stocks are being sent to all stakeholders including government departments, farmers, NGOs and watershed project to achieve the said target.

As many as 9.820 million saplings of different species would be sown during the campaign in the province to offset the dangerous effects of challenges of climatic change, global warming and desertification.

The province has been divided into six circles namely Southern, Lower Hazara, Upper Hazara, Watershed Project, Malakand East and Malakand West wherein 2.074 million, 2.169million, 1.105million, 0.771million, 2.124million and 1.577million saplings would be planted with the help of different institutions and stakeholders respectively.

Jinnah, Imran and Shezan

BY:—Yasser Latif Hamdani

To Jinnah, the question of representation of the legitimate interests of the Muslim minority in United India was a political question and not a religious one. Therefore, a non-Muslim could equally represent the Muslims without any contradiction

The ban on Shezan products by the Lahore Bar Association (LBA) has yet again proved that we are an unthinking, heartless and crooked people as a whole. This ban, which violates at least five of the fundamental rights guaranteed to citizens and other persons under the constitution of Pakistan, is unlikely to be challenged in a court of law because no court of law is going to rule against the high and mighty bar association. The more likely scenario is that the courts will uphold such a bigoted decision and further narrow space for dissent in this country. This writer at least has no hope or faith in Pakistanis of any kind to find it in their hearts to live up to human values of equity and justice, least of all the rabble that passes for lawyers in our time.

Yet I continue to write primarily to set the record straight on two counts. One, the actions of the black sheep that populate this nation state are not and ought not be a reflection on the founder of this nation who — whether our bigots admit it or not — was a man of towering integrity and an inherent sense of justice and fair play and who perhaps is unfortunate enough to be called the founding father of a wretched nation like us. Second, while we are infested with bigots of all shapes and forms, not all of us are like that.

So long as we dare to hope, we are in for constant heartbreak. The all-conquering hero, Imran Khan, claims that he will usher in a new era in Pakistan’s politics by bringing back Quaid-e-Azam’s Pakistan. This hollow promise lured me into supporting the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) for three odd months. Lately, Imran Khan’s party has made common cause with the Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) and other such organisations, which are the antithesis of the fondest hopes Jinnah had for the state he was creating. To make matters worse, the president of the LBA, Chaudhry Zulfiqar Ali, who presided over the ban on the ‘kafir’ (infidel) Shezan soft drink, was supported by Hamid Khan and a bulk of lawyers who identify themselves with the PTI. Apologists for the party now state that Imran Khan has to appeal to a popular base and the Ahmedi issue is only a small matter. It is stated — repeatedly — that Imran Khan is trying to save Pakistan and cannot be bothered with such small matters. May I humbly submit — without offending anyone — that a Pakistan sans Jinnah’s secular vision of equality and justice for all Pakistanis regardless of religion, caste or creed is not a Pakistan worth saving.

While mindful of the sentiments of the people he was leading, Jinnah never made any compromises with bigots. He repeatedly rebuffed Majlis-e-Ahrar’s offers of alliance on the grounds that Majlis-e-Ahrar propagated hate and bigotry against the Ahmedis. On May 23, 1944, Jinnah stated very clearly what his position on the Ahmedi issue was:

“I have been asked a disturbing question, as to who among the Muslims can be a member of the Muslim Conference. It has been asked with particular reference to the Qadianis. My reply is that, as far as the constitution of the All-India Muslim League is concerned, it stipulates that any Muslim, without distinction of creed or sect, can become a member, provided he accepts the views, policy and programme of the Muslim League, signs the form of membership and pays the subscription. I appeal to the Muslims of Jammu and Kashmir not to raise sectarian questions, but instead to unite on one platform under one banner. In this lies the welfare of the Muslims. In this way, not only can Muslims make political and social progress effectively, but so can other communities, and so also can the state of Kashmir as a whole.” (For reference please see Jamil-ud-Din Ahmed, Speeches and Statements, Volume I, pg 148.)

It is reported that one Mr M A Sabir tried as hard as he could to persuade the Quaid-e-Azam to declare the Ahmedis as being out of the fold of Islam. But Mr Jinnah stuck resolutely to his principles and kept on replying: “What right have I to declare a person non-Muslim, when he claims to be a Muslim.”

When in 1943 a resolution was presented in the Muslim League to commit Pakistan to an Islamic polity, Jinnah rejected it and called it a censure on every Leaguer. Jinnah did not let any bigot or expediency dictate his policy; against tremendous pressure Jinnah appointed Zafarullah Khan first to argue Pakistan’s case before the Boundary Commission and then as the foreign minister of the new state. As a gesture that spoke louder than words, he appointed Jogindranath Mandal as his law minister. Mr Mandal, a Hindu, had earlier been nominated by Jinnah on a Muslim seat in the interim government of India. To Jinnah, the question of representation of the legitimate interests of the Muslim minority in United India was a political question and not a religious one. Therefore, a non-Muslim could equally represent the Muslims without any contradiction.

Jinnah’s personal observance (or lack thereof) of religious obligations was well known. He made no effort to hide his thoroughly westernised lifestyle. Repeatedly he told the Muslims that he was not a religious leader and that they should not expect from him anything that his own lifestyle does not conform to. His conduct at political rallies was the same — he did not start his speeches with any religious prayer or supplication. When urged by some ulema (religious scholars) to institute public prayer at League rallies, he replied: “Who is going to lead such a prayer, a Shia? A Deobandi? Who?” This is a far cry from Imran Khan’s recent antics at his jalsas (rallies), including his televised namaz (prayer) during the Lahore jalsa. In fact, Imran Khan’s newfound penchant for starting his speeches with a religious prayer is at odds with his own career as a cricketer and a captain. In 1992, Imran Khan did not begin his speech by the now customary “thanks to Almighty Allah”, though perhaps Imran had more faith than anyone who has led the cricket team before or since. Imran the cricket captain, much like Jinnah the politician, did not wear his religion on his sleeve. Imran Khan the politician is a different story.

Anyone who has even a rudimentary idea about the conflict between the two South Asian greats, Jinnah and Gandhi, knows that Jinnah’s break with Gandhi came over Gandhi’s encouragement of the Islamist Khilafat Movement, which Jinnah considered a bigoted and reactionary undertaking. The Quaid famously told Durga Das that he had nothing to do with the pseudo-religious approach to politics that Gandhi was forwarding. In his otherwise well written book, Pakistan: A Personal History, Imran Khan claims that Jinnah and Gandhi were on the same page vis-à-vis the role of religion in politics. Tragically, this misconception seems to inform the great Khan’s every move these days. At the very least then Imran Khan should stop misleading people like me by making references to Jinnah, so that we may stop hoping and wishing and praying for a new dawn, which seems to be no longer an option or priority for Pakistan’s leaders, including Imran Khan.

The writer is a practising lawyer. He blogs at and his twitter handle is @therealylh

Imran Khan’s powerless opposition to 20th Amendment

By Muhammad Akram

LAHORE: The gargantuan task ahead of holding general elections in a free, fair and impartial manner gets a major boost with the passage of 20th Amendment by all political forces having representation in the National Assembly, leaving aside only the likes of PTI which boycotted the 2008 elections and achieved no success in the by-elections.

The PTI, without offering any convincing arguments, has rejected this widely acclaimed amendment to the constitution merely because its self-assumed political opponents – the ruling PPP-led coalition and the main opposition party PML-N – had the final say on the issue.

PTI chief Imran Khan has demanded an all-parties conference (APC) on the matter with a hilarious threat of launching a civil disobedience movement if his demand is not met. The demand for an APC is highly unlikely given the support the amendment had received from political forces of all shades and colours and cross-section of the civil society, including the independent media.

The PTI is apparently left with no choice but to accept the amendment or to host an APC on its own and face political humiliation as no political party would be ready to attend the moot. However, a conglomerate of jihadi and defunct organisations trying to stir the polity in the name of defeatist ideology of defence of Pakistan may accept any such invitation after seeing no prospects for them in the politics of constitutionalism.

In fact, PTI insiders said, the party’s Central Executive Committee (CEC) had failed to comprehend the political development beforehand as a majority of its policymakers eyed an entanglement over the amendment between the PPP and PML-N and the PPP and its allies in the backdrop of Prime Minister Gilani drifting close to an early conviction in the contempt of court case and a showdown between the judiciary and the executive on NRO case.

The insiders said the party had of late been quite watchful of the political moves of JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman whom they considered acting as a troubleshooter for the incumbent dispensation and hammering out political deals for democratic transition as a result of general elections in October between the incumbent government and the mainstream opposition forces.

The sources said Fazlur Rehman would be the prime target of the party leadership in days to come as pre-emptive measures to keep him from tarnishing the image of Imran Khan, particularly in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The PTI chief has gained considerable support in the province at the cost of erosion of support base of the PML-N, ANP and JUI-F.

At the moment, the JUI-F is the only significant religio-political party in the country which is proving its allegiance to the constitutionalism. The remaining such parties, including the Jamaat-e-Islami, has joined what has largely been the suspected security establishment-driven Defence of Pakistan Council (DPC). The DPC has been seen holding public meetings in Lahore, Rawalpindi and Karachi at a cost of millions of rupees to spread its agenda of hatred for democracy and constitutionalism and a foreign policy of regional and international isolation to the country.

The PTI has been sharing DPC platforms that are being used to spread agenda of hatred against democracy, parliamentary system and the love for jihad and allegiance with defunct organisations. The party took an active part in DPC’s public meetings in at Lahore and Karachi and showed its eagerness to have an electoral alliance with the Jamaat-e-Islami, the most vocal component of DPC.

Largely dubbed “political orphans” such as Sheikh Rashid Ahmed and Ijazul Haq have been attending DPC gatherings. They are stated to be taking a refuge of the platform of jihadis since nothing much is left for them in electoral politics and a polity vying to stage a rare democratic transition in months to come.

The PTI insiders said the party has been categorical in not welcoming in its fold the likes of Sheikh Rashid and also finger crossed in striking an electoral alliance with the JI. The sources said the PTI has slowed down its process of accepting PML-Q turncoats in its fold following criticism from the media as well as political opponents. Yet it has failed to quell the temptation of gulping all those who could ensure a win for the party in Punjab in the forthcoming elections in a triangular contest with the PPP and PML-N as the other contenders. The sources termed Imran Khan’s rejection of the 20th Amendment his “naivety” about the country’s politics where the proposed legislation was nothing short of a dream coming true for all those struggling to get closer to the holding of elections sans all impurities.

The sources added the amendment would help democratic forces and civil institutions keep this very important tool of democracy in their control with a “powerful establishment only watching from a distance the healthy democratic occurrences on the national political scene”.

Imran Khan’s calling a foul to something – an independent elections commission, non-partisan caretaker set-up and almost flawless electoral rolls – which is a rare practice even in the developed democracies is nothing but a hangover of crowd he manages to pull in public meetings. But he is yet to experience the conversion of the same into support in elections, the sources said.

FATA reforms gift of democratic Govt
The FATA reforms came under discussions and the parliamentarians described it a gift of democracy awarded to the people of FATA by a democratically elected government, during lunch party hosted by Barrister Masood Kausar.

Barrister Masood Kausar hosted a luncheon for FATA parliamentarians and sitting Senators from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa here at Governor’s House.

A number of FATA MNAs and Senators both from FATA and KPK including Ilyas Bilour of Awami National Party, Munir Orakzai FATA parliamentary party leader, Professor Mohammad Ibrahim of Jamaat-i-Islami and Qari Mohammad Abdullah and Haji Ghulam Ali of Jamiat-ul-Ulema-Islam (F) attended the luncheon. They held informal discussion on the political and security situation in FATA and KPK.

The FATA reforms also came under discussions and the parliamentarians described it a gift of democracy awarded to the people of FATA by a democratically elected government. However they stressed the need to ensure implementation on these reforms particularly on the amendments made in the FCR to make the tribesmen realize a change. The Governor said that implementation on FATA reforms was thoroughly monitored and making it a binding on the political administration to submit periodical reports in this regard. He however asked the FATA parliamentarians to identify the areas wherever they notice any violation.

On another point the Governor said that FATA domiciled people were being given priority in FATA related jobs and he had issued very clear directives to all the respective departments and officials in this regard.

Pakistani Taliban Gaining More Resources From Kidnapping


A campaign of high-profile kidnappings has provided the Pakistani Taliban and its allies with new resources, arming insurgents with millions of dollars, threatening foreign aid programs and galvanizing a sophisticated network of jihadi and criminal gangs whose reach spans the country.

Wealthy industrialists, academics, Western aid workers and relatives of military officers have been targets in a spree that, since it started three years ago, has spread to every major city, reaching the wealthiest neighborhoods, Pakistani security officials say.

For many hostages, the experience means a harrowing journey into the heart of Waziristan, the fearsome Taliban redoubt along the Afghan border that has borne the brunt of a C.I.A. drone-strike campaign.

One young Punjabi businessman who spent six months there in Taliban hands last year described it as a terrifying time of grimy cells, clandestine journeys, brutal beatings and grinding negotiations with his distraught, distant family.

For all that, his captors betrayed glimpses of humanity, even humor: small acts of kindness; quirky after-dinner games; shared confidences and reminiscences. But their ruthless intent was never in doubt, the former hostage said, speaking anonymously because he feared reprisals against his family.

During his captivity, four teenage suicide bombers were undergoing instruction, taking indoctrination classes in the morning and carrying mock explosive vests equipped with push-button detonators in the afternoon.

“Their mantra was: ‘One button and you go to heaven,’ ” he recalled.

Kidnapping is a centuries-old scourge in parts of Pakistan, from the tribesmen who snatched British colonists in the 19th century to the slum gangs that have preyed on Karachi business families since the 1980s. The national total has varied only slightly in recent years: from 474 kidnappings for ransom in 2010 to 467 last year, according to Interior Ministry figures.

What has changed, however, is the level of Taliban involvement.

In one case, a 70-year-old German aid worker and his 24-year-old Italian colleague, who disappeared from the city of Multan on Jan. 20, are being held by militants in North Waziristan, a senior security official confirmed.

Others in militant captivity include Shahbaz Taseer, son of the assassinated former Punjab governor Salmaan Taseer; two Swiss tourists who vanished as they drove toward the Iranian border; the son-in-law of a retired four-star army general; and Warren Weinstein, a 70-year-old American snatched from his home last August, days before he was due to leave Pakistan, and said to be held by Al Qaeda.

The Pakistani Taliban are unapologetic, saying the kidnappings earn valuable funds, offer leverage to free imprisoned fighters and are a political statement against longstanding American efforts to drive Al Qaeda from the tribal belt. “We are targeting foreigners in reaction to government demands that we expel the foreign mujahedeen,” said the deputy leader of the Pakistani Taliban, Wali ur-Rehman, during an interview at his North Waziristan stronghold.

The kidnappings are continuing even as Pakistani security forces have seemed to blunt the militants’ ability to inflict mass casualties: suicide attacks fell by 35 percent in 2011, according to the annual report of the Pak Institute for Peace Studies, while the number of people killed in attacks fell from 3,021 in 2009 to 2,391 last year.

But the lull may be temporary, experts warn, and meanwhile the militants are filling their coffers with ransom money.

The business is run like a mobster racket. Pakistani and foreign militant commanders, based in Waziristan, give the orders, but it is a combination of hired criminals and “Punjabi Taliban” who snatch the hostages from their homes, vehicles and workplaces.

Ransom demands typically range between $500,000 and $2.2 million, although the final price is often one-tenth of the asking amount, security experts say. The kidnappers’ methods are sophisticated: surveillance of targets that can last months; sedative injections to subdue victims after abduction; video demands via Skype; use of different gangs for different tasks, often with little knowledge of one another.

The victims tend to be wealthy — the police have recovered lists of prominent stock market players from kidnappers — and, often, from vulnerable sectarian minorities such as Hindus, Shiites and Ahmadi Muslims.

So it was with the young Punjabi businessman held in Waziristan last year. “They told me upfront I had been taken because I was an Ahmadi,” he said. “They consider us fair game.”

Snatched by armed men as he drove home from work, the hostage was locked in a cellar for a month before being driven to Miram Shah, the capital of North Waziristan, under the cover of a woman’s all-covering burqa. He would spend five months there, imprisoned in a house with about 20 fighters from the various Taliban strands: Afghans, plotting to attack NATO soldiers across the border in Afghanistan, and Pakistani Taliban, drawn largely from the Mehsud tribe, pitted against their own government.

Over time the hostage developed relationships, of a sort, with his captors. Allowed to roam the compound, he fell into casual conversation with some, helped others with the cooking; sometimes, after meals, the militants would sit in a circle and make funny faces at each other. The hostage was encouraged to join in.

“The idea was to keep a straight face. At the end, everyone would burst into laughter,” he recalled with a wry smile. “It was funny and surreal.”

Some offered strange privileges. Before recording one hostage video, his captors thrashed him with a water hose. But afterward, two apologetic Afghan fighters sent for painkillers from the bazaar, and insisted on massaging his bruises with olive oil.

Still, there were frequent reminders of the militants’ cold-steel ideology and readiness to kill. As reading material, they offered a treatise by Al Qaeda’s ideological leader, Ayman al-Zawahri; at night they watched, on laptops, videos of Pakistani soldiers being executed, or carefully chosen excerpts from Hollywood titles: Muslims killing Christian crusaders in Ridley Scott’s “Kingdom of Heaven,” or Sylvester Stallone battling Soviet soldiers in Afghanistan in “Rambo 3.”

Help seemed tantalizingly near at times. The sounds of chatting women and playing children drifted from the house next door. Climbing to the rooftop for exercise, he could see a Pakistani military base, its flag fluttering, on the other side of town. Twice, C.I.A. drone aircraft passed overhead. Yet no rescuers arrived.

“Waziristan is very safe for the Taliban; the place is crawling with them,” he said. “Even the non-Taliban carry weapons, so it’s hard to know who is who.”

Not all militant kidnappings are Taliban-related. In 2009, nationalist rebels in western Baluchistan Province held an American United Nations official for two months; Baluch nationalists are also suspects in the case of a British Red Cross doctor snatched from Quetta in January.

But no group can match the Taliban’s reach. In the seaside megalopolis of Karachi, Islamist kidnappers lurk in the sprawling slums, targeting rich business families. Sharfuddin Memon, an adviser to the home minister of Sindh Province, said militants recently demanded $6.6 million in return for a wealthy industrialist. But in December, the police cornered the kidnappers on the city outskirts; after a shootout, three were killed and the hostage walked free.

“We’ve learned to tell the difference,” Mr. Memon said. “With local criminals, it can take six weeks to resolve a case; with the Taliban it’s more like six months.”

The Taliban’s extended range is most striking, however, in Punjab, Pakistan’s most populous province, where it has allied with criminal gangs to mount daring abductions, often in broad daylight.

One morning last August a gang driving motorbikes and a black S.U.V. dragged Mr. Taseer, the son of the assassinated governor, from his Mercedes sports car in a wealthy district of Lahore. Now Mr. Taseer is being held by Uzbek militants in Waziristan, said Mr. Rehman, the deputy Taliban commander.

Aiding the Taliban’s reach into Punjab is its alliance with Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, a vicious Sunni sectarian group whose cadres dominate the Punjabi Taliban and which has developed strong ties with Al Qaeda. “We see the nexus between the two groups in most cases,” Interior Minister Rehman Malik said.

Sometimes the kidnappers demand more than money. When the son-in-law of Gen. Tariq Majid, a former chairman of the military’s Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee, appeared in a hostage video last year, he reportedly called for the release of 153 prisoners as well as $1.4 million in cash. The hostage identified his captors as Lashkar-e-Jhangvi.

The problem is hurting foreign aid efforts on behalf of poor Pakistanis.

In 2010, Mercy Corps closed 44 offices in two provinces after the Taliban executed an employee taken hostage in Baluchistan. Mercy Corps reportedly paid $250,000 to free four others who had been captured. The abduction of the two Europeans in Multan last month, and the disappearance of a Kenyan aid worker two days later, stirred fresh alarm among aid workers.

Interior Minister Malik said the government did not encourage payment of ransom, but conceded that, for those who ended up in Waziristan, there were few alternatives — even if it meant financing the insurgency.

When the young Punjabi businessman was freed last year, his family sent a cash payment to the Taliban. Just before his departure from the Miram Shah compound, a handful of fighters bid him farewell.

It was summer, they explained, so it was time to trek across the jagged mountains into Afghanistan, for a fresh season of battle against American and NATO forces.