Thursday, August 16, 2007

Breakthrough on Korean Hostage Issue in Afghanistan?
China Role called Crucial

The USG Open Source Center translates a broadcast of GEO television, the privately owned Pakistani satellite channel, regarding a possible breakthrough on the crisis provoked when Taliban took South Koreans hostage. For video on this issue, see the previous post on the release of two hostages.

"Pakistan: Kamran Khan Program
-- 'Breakthrough' on Korean Hostage Issue Seen . . .
Geo News TV Thursday, August 16, 2007
Document Type: OSC

[Discussion between Nazir Leghari, editor of Urdu newspaper Awam, and senior Pakistani journalist Kamran Khan in studio in Karachi on Korean hostages issue--live; taken from regularly scheduled "Today with Kamran Khan" program; words within double slant lines are in English.]

(Kamran Khan) Reports have been received that the Taliban have decided to release those 19 Korean hostages who were abducted about a month ago on 19 July in Ghazni province (of Afghanistan). In all 23 Koreans, majority of whom were women, were abducted. They were //aid workers// and//Christian missionaries// and had gone to Afghanistan for aid work. Reports say that the Taliban are now ready to release most of them. Two of the 23 hostages were killed by the Taliban and two others were released a few days ago. The row is the most important topic in Afghanistan at present. Afghan President Hamid Karzai and America are under direct pressure of South Korea, which is asking America to take steps to get its citizens released and accept the Taliban's demands. The reports received now say that there has been a//breakthrough// on the issue.

We have with us in studio Nazir Leghari, editor of (Urdu) newspaper Awam, who will give us the news of a //breakthrough//.

Nazir, what development has taken place, which we are describing as a //breakthrough// and which could, perhaps, lead to a solution of the issue.

(Leghari) The //breakthrough// according to the reports is that China has contacted the Taliban. One thing that emerged during the Pakistan-Afghanistan jirga (council of tribal leaders) was that both sides have agreed to create conditions for a //dialogue// with the Taliban and in this connection the jirga also constituted a 50-member delegation, which will hold//dialogue// with the Taliban. The occasion provided an opportunity to China to//enter// into the overall picture. China is an important country of the region and all these developments are taking place next door to it. China shares a long border with Afghanistan and some of its provinces are very close to Afghanistan. Then there are //regional issues//. So, China cannot keep itself too much out from the issues of these countries. The Taliban are also a victim of//isolation// as no country or a major organization is with it. So, this was the overall picture. So, now the Chinese contacts with the Taliban in itself is a major development for them. Pakistan and Afghanistan now accept that there should be a dialogue with the Taliban and that they should be brought into the political process and in //governance// if possible. The Taliban have to be brought on the path of dialogue. The Chinese entry at this juncture is very important. Reports are being received that the Taliban decided yesterday to release a woman hostage and they even wanted to implement the decision. But reports later came that the woman has said that until her other women colleagues are not released, she does not want to be released. So, it was then decided to release about 5 women and the Taliban Shura (consultative council) agreed to the decision.

(Khan) Does the Taliban's latest position on the hostages indicate that they will give up their demands?

(Leghari) I do no think so. There are two situations--to accept the demands, which appear to be likely, or not to accept. On various occasions an //underhand deal// is negotiated, which is not reported. Afterwards when it is known that so and so Taliban leaders have been released, they were actually released as a result of a //deal//. And, there still are such leaders in the Taliban leadership who were first captured, but were later released.

(Khan) You are saying that it may not appear at present, but there will be a //quid pro quo//, meaning something that will be done (for release of hostages), but it will not be clearly visible.

(Leghari) This could be possible, but it may also not happen. The Taliban can also make a //goodwill// gesture and since China has joined, so it should be given a better //position// to enable it to enter into the overall situation and join a major dialogue process.

(Khan) So, please tell us whether you think that in the present //ground// situation the issue is very close to a solution and the remaining 19 Koreans, including 15 women, will be released peacefully?

(Leghari) Yes, I guess that the Taliban will release the hostages. I understand it will happen and some reports are coming that the Taliban leadership is mentally prepared to do so and China can play an important role through its contacts with the Taliban. Negotiations took place today, but it was not announced when the negotiations will be resumed. The negotiations between the Taliban and the Koreans had been deadlocked in a way, but at the same time reports say that these negotiations were deliberately deadlocked after the Chinese contacts because it would be better if conditions for release are created as a result of the Chinese contacts.

(Khan(Thank you very much. Nazir Leghari, editor of newspaper Awam, was giving us the details. The reports are coming in that a//breakthrough// has taken place and there is a hope for the release of 19 Koreans, who are still being kept as hostages by the Taliban. For the first time, China's role has emerged in this Afghanistan's important issue and problem. China is trying that the issue is settled peacefully.

(Description of Source: Karachi Geo News TV in Urdu -- 24-hour satellite news TV channel owned by Pakistan's Jang publishing group, broadcast from Dubayy. Known for providing quick and detailed reports of events. Programs include some Indian shows and dramas which the group claims are aimed at promoting people-to-people contact and friendly relations with India.) "

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