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Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Jamaluddin Khan: An unsung hero of Pakistan-China friendship

Another Swati pays with life for saving Chinese engineer
Friday, October 02, 2009
By Rahimullah Yusufzai
PESHAWAR: The bullet-riddled body of a Swati in whose house the kidnapped Chinese engineer had spent a night in October 2008 after escaping from Taliban captivity was found here Wednesday.

The 54-year old Jamaluddin Khan, a landlord from Chinglalai village in Swat’s Matta tehsil, had been kidnapped from outside his rented home in Sector F-8 in Hayatabad’s Phase 6 in Peshawar on September 28. His was one of the two bodies dumped in fields in Garhi Atta Muhammad village on the outskirts of Peshawar on Tuesday. As the bodies were unclaimed, both were buried by the police in the same village.

On Wednesday, Jamaluddin’s brother Sadeed Khan came looking for the body and met the staff of Yakatoot police station. His kidnapped brother was untraceable and he feared that Jamaluddin might have been killed. “The body was decomposed and I had difficulty recognizing it. But we knew it was Jamaluddin,” an aggrieved Sadeed Khan told The News.

The family took the body to Swat for burial. Despite risk to their life from remnants of Taliban militants, Sadeed Khan and members of the family were determined to travel to their village Chingalalai to bury Jamaluddin in their ancestral graveyard.

For the past one year, Jamaluddin had been living in Peshawar after fleeing Swat. He is survived by a widow, three sons and three daughters. He had recently obtained a US visa and was booked to fly to New York on October 3. The Qatar Airways flight was to take him from Peshawar to Doha and then onward to New York. But his enemies were apparently aware of his travel plans and they struck before he could leave Pakistan.

“I was urging him to leave during Ramazan. I knew he was under threat, but he delayed his departure and paid with his life,” recalled Sadeed Khan, who was a senior officer in the telephone department in Swat when life in the scenic valley was peaceful.

Sadeed Khan didn’t blame anyone for his brother’s murder. “We didn’t harm anybody and had no enemies. But all of us felt threatened when Jamaluddin and his cousin Liaqat Ali Khan helped save the life of the Chinese engineer in Swat on the night of October 17, 2008.

Liaqat, who belonged to Dagai village in Matta tehsil, had driven the Chinese engineer Zhang Guo in his car and delivered him to the nearby Pakistan Army camp at Vennai. Following his escape from Taliban custody in the Shawar or Peochar area, the 30-year old Zhang Guo had run for his life and sought refuge in Jamaluddin’s house in Chinglalai. He was lodged in a cattleshed due to fear of the Taliban, who were chasing the two escaped Chinese engineers. The Taliban managed to recapture Lang Xiao We, the younger, 26-year old Chinese engineer who broke his leg and fell while running in the mountainous area. Taliban searched Jamaluddin’s house but didn’t look for the Chinese engineer in the cattleshed.

In the morning, Jamaluddin and his servants phoned Liaqat and it was decided that Zhang Guo should be handed over to the army troops. This was done but then misfortune of the two families began.

Despite obvious threat to his life, Liaqat refused to leave Swat. On November 20, Taliban militants ambushed his car and killed him. Two days later, Jamaluddin escaped to Peshawar and managed to survive for about a year. Though his family isn’t accusing the militants of the murder at this stage, it appears that Jamaluddin, like his cousin Liaqat, paid with his life for helping the Chinese engineer and earning the ire of the Swat Taliban. The two men had defied the militants, who subsequently got several of their men freed from government custody and also received a handsome amount as ransom in exchange for the second Chinese engineer, Lang Xiao We, who too had escaped and was recaptured. (The News)

Swati man paid with his life for saving Chinese engineer

Thursday, January 15, 2009
Zhang Guo is back in China while Liaqat was killed by Taliban

By Rahimullah Yusufzai

PESHAWAR: The man who delivered the kidnapped Chinese engineer to the security forces after his escape from the Taliban custody in Swat was subsequently made to pay with his life.

It wasn’t known until now that one Liaqat Ali Khan, son of Nadir Khan, a landlord from Dagai village in Matta Tehsil in upper Swat valley, was murdered by the local Taliban for helping Chinese telecommunication engineer, Zhang Guo, to reach the Pakistan Army’s roadside security post at Vennai. Members of his family, requesting anonymity due to a risk to their lives, told The News that Taliban fighters chased Liaqat while he was driving his car near his village on November 20 last year and shot him dead.

Liaqat’s family, his cousins and other close relatives had to abandon their homes and move out of Swat after the incident. They still live in fear of the Swati Taliban and are unable to lead normal lives even in places far away from their native Swat.

The 30-year-old Zhang Guo and his colleague, Long Xiao We, were kidnapped from a spot near the Khall town in Upper Dir district on August 29 while installing towers for a mobile phone company. They were taken to Swat and mostly kept in the Shawar, Peochar and Namal mountainous areas in Matta Tehsil.

The Maulana Fazlullah-led Taliban in Swat demanded release of their 136 men and ransom in exchange for the two Chinese hostages. The government refused to make a deal with the Taliban.

It was on October 17, 2008 that the two young Chinese engineers made their move to escape from Taliban’s custody. They reportedly sneaked out of the house where they were held during the night and ran for their life. Long Xiao We, 26-year-old and heavily-built, slipped during the escape and broke his leg. The mountainous terrain and the darkness made it difficult for them to find their way to safety. It is said Zhang Guo lost his colleague on the way after the latter’s fall and after a futile search decided to go it alone. The desperate engineer wanted to seek protection in some house in Chinglalai and the nearby Dagai village as he feared that the militants would soon learn about their escape and track them down. The Taliban managed to find Long Xiao We and made him hostage again but Zhang Guo was lucky to find a place to hide and regain freedom.

According to late Liaqat’s family members, the unusual barking of dogs alarmed their security guards and prompted them to come out of the house of one of his cousins. They found the Chinese engineer shivering from cold outside the Hujra, or male guesthouse, and unable to speak a word of Pashto or Urdu, the two languages that the guards understood. Zhang Guo could barely speak English, the language the guards didn’t understand. Finding it difficult during the night to lodge him in the locked house or Hujra, the guards took him instead to a cattleshed and asked him to sleep there. They found an old blanket for him to protect himself from the cold.

In the morning, the guards contacted Liaqat in Dagai village and told him about the stranger, who they believed was deaf and dumb. After seeing Zhang Guo, he knew this was one of the Chinese engineers who had been kidnapped by the Taliban. Liaqat reportedly consulted his cousins in Swat and Peshawar and sought their advice how to handle the situation. He was advised to deliver the engineer to the Army checkpost at Vennai, located about 1.5 kms from Dagai.

According to one of his cousins, Liaqat was aware of the seriousness of the situation and he, therefore, tried to arrange a traditional, all enveloping Burqa for the Chinese engineer to wear while transporting him to the military checkpoint. Efforts to lay hands on the shuttlecock-type Burqa failed and Liaqat had little other choice than to seat Zhang Guo in the back seat of his car and drive him to the Vennai security forces’ post. He was able to return home safely but this was the beginning of his troubles.

Somehow the word got out about the Chinese engineer’s stay in the house after his escape from the Taliban and his handing over to the security forces. The Taliban started suspecting Liaqat for helping the engineer and not long after that he became a marked man. It was just a matter of time that the militants would target him.

Neither the Chinese diplomats nor most Pakistan government and military officials know that it was Liaqat Ali Khan who helped save Zhang Guo’s life but in the process paid with his own. It was a targeted killing of a man who had opted to stay in Swat unlike other Khans and resourceful people.


Dr Matloob Hussain

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