Mr Bisthamy’s family has relatives in Dubai, and he had previously worked with a Dubai-registered merchant vessel.Jawaid Khan, the MV Albedo captain who was among those freed, and Ahmed Chinoy, the lead negotiator, have also pledged to help.“I will do my best to get these men free,” Mr Chinoy said. “The pressure on the men and their families is extreme and people from all communities should come forward.”The 15 hostages had sent a letter to Mr Chinoy through the freed Pakistani sailors, warning that they would not survive the difficult conditions on the ship, and pleading with him to continue his efforts to free them.Meanwhile, Mrs Farhana worries about the health of her father, who turns 60 this year.Mr Bisthamy has a weak arm due to an earlier accident, and she is anxious after learning about the random firing and severe beating the Pakistani crew endured.“I think he was shot in the hand, but he is not telling us everything when he calls,” she said.“He doesn’t want to upset us. My father had some responsibilities because our family home is mortgaged with the bank, so he wanted to save some money. Now, we must borrow again. But money and our income does not matter. We just want our dad back.” (The National) The pirates released the Pakistanis in exchange for a US$1.1 million (Dh4m) ransom raised by Pakistani relatives and businessmen. The amount was part of a total $2.85m ransom that the pirates had demanded. They have refused to release all the sailors until their demands are met. “I can’t express how difficult this is for us. This was supposed to be my father’s last sail. He wanted to rest, and now we have to try everything to get them back. It is really too sad for all our families.”The hostages have been aboard the Malaysian-flagged cargo vessel since November 2010, when it was hijacked in the Gulf of Aden after leaving Jebel Ali port for Kenya. Family members of six Sri Lankan sailors who are still being held hostage aboard the MV Albedo will launch a nationwide appeal today in a bid to raise enough money to free their men.The sailors are among 15 crew still being held captive by Somali pirates on the hijacked ship, after seven Pakistani crew were freed last week. Mr Bisthamy called his wife in Colombo shortly before the Pakistani crew were released, asking her to talk to the government.“A day before the Pakistanis were freed, my dad talked to my mum and asked her to go to the president. He said, ‘Try to do something,’” recalled Mrs Farhana.“We have tried to reach the government but we had no success, so now we are going to the media and to Sri Lankan people anywhere in the world, asking if they can assist us.” Worries about the safety of the remaining hijacked crew resurfaced after news spread about the brutality suffered by the freed Pakistani sailors. Among the sailors still held captive are seven Bangladeshis, six Sri Lankans, an Indian and an Iranian. One Indian sailor was shot dead by pirates last year in an effort to pressure the Iranian owner to pay.The Sri Lankan fund-raising drive aiming to raise $1m will begin today in Colombo with a media conference to be attended by relatives of the six Sri Lankan hostages.The families have asked a former naval officer from their country to act as a mediator in talks with the pirates. “We don’t want them to keep waiting and die there, we must do something,” said Fatima Farhana, a schoolteacher and the daughter of the ship’s second engineer, Segu Mohammed Bisthamy.
“As of today, the UN political presence is limited to Kabul and Faizabad after the Taliban shut down four other UN political offices in Mazar-I-Sharif, Herat, Jalalabad and Kandahar in line with its May 20 deadline for their closure,” spokesman Fred Eckhard told reporters in New York.The office of the UN Special Mission in Afghanistan will continue to operate in Kabul, while the Secretary-General’s Personal Representative for the country, Francesc Vendrell, will also pursue the UN’s work there.Although the closure does not apply to the UN humanitarian presence in Afghanistan, the aid community is facing “increasing obstacles from the Taliban authorities in carrying out work,” Mr. Eckhard observed.Meanwhile, in neighbouring Pakistan, the World Food Programme (WFP) today started distributing food supplies to more than 70,000 Afghans refugees living in a squalid site called Jalozai near Peshawar. “We have been concerned about the destitute Afghans in Jalozai camp for some time now,” said WFP Regional Manager Mike Sackett. “This food distribution should ease their situation.”Since the beginning of this year, the agency has been providing food to over 65,700 Afghan refugees in the relatively more secure New Shamshatoo and Akora Khattak camps in Peshawar. In all, WFP plans to provide more than 12,000 tonnes of food to the poorest Afghan refugees in those camps at a cost over $4.8 million. However, WFP Programme Advisor Rahman Chowdhury predicted that “this commitment could increase if conditions permit in Jalozai camp.” Inside Afghanistan, WFP is distributing about 20,000 tonnes of food each month towards its overall goal of helping 3.8 million poor Afghans get their daily food requirements this year. read more