Friday, 30 July 2010

A nightmare situation

World In Need works in Northern Pakistan, in the area around Peshawar, one of the most dangerous places in the world. Close to troubled Afghanistan, plagued by the Pakistani Taliban, the area often makes the news for all the wrong reasons. Crime is rife, and profitable.

One crime has proved lucrative to petty criminals and ideological terrorists alike, and that is the crime of kidnapping for ransom. People are snatched off the street, held, threatened, then returned to their families on payment of large sums of money. The authorities do what they can both to prevent this happening, and to bring the perpetrators to justice, but they fight a losing battle, hindered by the teeming streets and crowded dwellings of the city, and by the vast areas and rugged landscape of more rural parts.

Unfortunately, the threats against the kidnap victims are not idle. If ransoms are not paid, people die.

Last week, a young woman walked home from a day of studying at her university. She is a bright woman, full of promise and potential, exactly the kind of person Pakistan needs if it is to have a good future. This woman also happened to be the daughter of World In Need’s director in Northern Pakistan.

She didn’t make it to her home that night. She simply vanished and her distraught father found himself looking at a ransom demand that asked for $10,000 (£6,500). An incredible amount of money in a country where the average weekly wage is just $50.

Three tense days of negotiation and prayer passed. At last, the kidnappers accepted the father’s word that he would raise the ransom and deliver it to the kidnappers. On his promise, the girl was released, unharmed. Steps are now being taken to ensure she remains safe in the future.

Her father must now find and pay the ransom. Not to do so would leave him, his family, friends and colleagues open to reprisals for breaking his word, and would make it difficult for other victims to negotiate their safe release in future.

The World In Need family will not leave him to struggle with this alone. We need to raise this money, and we need to do it quickly.

Can you help? Even a small donation would be welcomed. A pound here and a pound there will mount up.

On this blog, we have always sought to give information about our work, and to raise awareness of what we do. We have rarely made direct appeals for money. That we are doing it now underlines the gravity of the situation.

Please, if you can, help us to pay this ransom. Lives do depend upon it.

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