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MPs slammed as 31 abducted passengers still in militants’ clutches

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By Akhtar M. Nikzad-KABUL: Lambasting members of the Wolesi Jirga (WJ) for their failure to address grievance of public and accelerate efforts to release the 31 passengers who were abducted in Zabul, a large number of civil society activists on Saturday protested near the parliament house and tried to prevent the MPs from attending the session.

They claimed that last week President Ashraf Ghani in a ten minutes meeting with abductees’ families in the Presidential Palace presented a grim picture. Relatives of the kidnapped passengers have lost ray of hope after meeting Ghani. The government has no clue about the passengers’ whereabouts. The protestors said that though the authorities tried to rescue the hostages but could no more assure their safe release.

Around 57 days ago, 31 passengers belonging to Hazara ethnic minority were abducted from Shah Joy district of Zabul by armed men. Media reports suggest that they were kidnapped by the Islamic State or Daesh and demanded release of insurgents from Afghan prisons. Daesh in a video footage claimed beheading of one passenger, however, the government said that all abductees were safe. Afterward, people and civil society activists staged protests in different part of the country and asked the government to take concrete steps to release the kidnapped people.

As a last resort after multiple protests, relatives of the abductees and rights activists set up a protest camp in Zarnigar Park, not far from the Presidential Palace.

Hawa Hussaini, 21 years old female activist who organized the protest, said that they tried to prevent the lawmakers from entering to the Wolesi Jirga building but failed. Saturday’s session was very important because the MPs had to reject or give confidence vote to the ministers-designate.

She claimed that it has been 57 days that the 31 passengers were kidnapped by armed insurgents but so far the Wolesi Jirga did not took the issue on its agenda.

Eqbal Ali Muzafari, another activist, said the national unity government is caught by internal differences and turned its attention from important issues.

“How can people trust the government when 31 passengers were kidnapped by unknown armed group in Zabul province, Farkhunda was lynched and set on fire by a mob in the capital city, 29 troops were beheaded by insurgents in Badakhshan province and recently four civilians were found beheaded in Ghazni province,” he said.

He warned the government to speed up efforts and release the passengers; otherwise, the protests would continue and grow.

Baktash Siawash, an MP from Kabul, also criticized the national unity government and expressed deep concerns over the rampant insecurity.