Authorities in Pakistan have reported no progress in their probe to ascertain motives or locate the whereabouts of a visiting senior Afghan politician, nearly a week after he was kidnapped in Islamabad.
Fazlullah Wahidi, former governor of Afghanistan’s western Herat province, arrived in the capital city with his family to apply for a visa to visit Britain. According to the initial complaint relatives registered with the Islamabad police, unknown men kidnapped him Friday afternoon from the guesthouse in which he was staying.
The British embassy in Kabul does not issue visas to Afghans.
Police and intelligence agencies have been working hard to resolve the matter but they have not yet made any progress, despite “some encouraging initial leads,” according to a Pakistani government official with knowledge of the probe, who spoke with VOA on the condition of anonymity.
Afghan diplomats said they are in touch with the Pakistani government and hope for quick progress in the case. They feared the incident, if not resolved, could setback efforts the two countries are making to improve their strained ties.
"The case if not resolved as hoped could severely impact prominent Afghan's traveling to Pakistan - something that actually needs to be encouraged and promoted for broadening positive interactions between our two countries as I want to push as part of my mission," Kabul's newly appointed ambassador to Islamabad, Hazrat Omar Zakhilwal told VOA on Wednesday.
The mysterious disappearance of the former governor comes at a time when Pakistan and Afghanistan, together with the United States and China, have stepped up joint efforts to arrange direct peace talks between the Kabul government and the Taliban to end the Afghan war.
Officials from the four nations are scheduled to meet again in the Afghan capital on Monday to further the peace process amid expectations that peace talks between the warring sides could start before the end of this month.
For years, Wahidi ruled the eastern Kunar province abutting Pakistan before being assigned to govern Herat. However, President Ashraf Ghani months ago removed him from office in a bid to improve provincial governance.
The missing Afghan politician is a vocal critic of Pakistan’s alleged interference in Afghan internal affairs and its secret support to the Taliban insurgency, charges Islamabad denies.
FILE - Taliban fighters hold their heavy and light weapons before surrendering them to Afghan authorities in Jalalabad, east of Kabul, Afghanistan.
Taliban denies involvement
The Taliban has denied involvement in the kidnapping.
“There are enough problems for us [the Taliban] to deal with inside Afghanistan and our policy also does not allow us to conduct operations on a foreign soil,” Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told VOA when asked whether the insurgent group was behind the abduction of former Afghan governor.
Criminal gangs are blamed for acts like kidnapping for ransom in parts of Pakistan, particularly the largest city and commercial hub, Karachi. But such crimes are not common in the nation's capital.
Officials do not rule out the possibility of internal Afghan rivalries. Extremists linked to the Pakistani Taliban who are waging a bloody insurgency against the state could also be behind Wahidi’s kidnapping.
However, some Pakistani officials and critics appear unhappy over the former Afghan governor’s arrival in the country without giving prior information to local authorities to ensure his personal security.