By Hussain Kashif
The abducted US expert Warren Weinstein was doing large scale humanitarian work in different public sectors including small and medium industries, agriculture and infrastructure development, which was responsible for bringing significant foreign investment and development in Pakistan.
He was a country director of JE Austin Associates Incorporation, Arlington, Virginia, US, which is a development contractor that works with the aid arm of the US government. Weinstein had also worked on a dairy project in Pakistan and imported dairy chillers to boost the productivity of rural farms in the country, resulting in $63 million in new investment to Pakistan, at least 2,150 new jobs, and a 25 percent boost in producer productivity.
His company is working here on US Agency for International Development (USAID) projects, including one to set up small businesses and create jobs in the restive Tribal Areas in Pakistan. Warren Weinstein was recognised by his company as an expert in international development of industries but they have removed his profile from their website after his kidnapping. The company also worked on helping small businesses in the gem and marble trade in the lower districts of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA).
According to Daily Times sources, he had worked on a multimillion-dollar USAID project to improve dairy, horticulture and mining in Pakistan, including the terrorist-infiltrated Tribal Areas. Sources said that his projects had finished here in Pakistan and that his contract with his Virginia-based company, JE Austin Associates Incorporation, ended on August 15 and that he was planning to return his home in the US.
A California-based website states, “Warren had been managing an office in Pakistan for over four years, building a strategic reputation in the dairy, furniture, marble and leather sectors, which led to projects for the Pakistani government. He was granted an African Affairs Certificate from Columbia University and he is also a Fulbright Scholar. A former political science associate professor, Weinstein is an expert on international development, experienced in bilateral and multilateral organisations, as well as NGOs. Highly experienced in designing and implementing training programmes, and fluent in seven languages, Dr Warren Weinstein is well known within international banking and finance circles.”
According to media reports, Dr Warren Weinstein celebrated his 70th birthday last month at his US residence in Rockville, Maryland. Weinstein was linked with the global community through the Internet on the social media website ‘LinkedIn’, where a complete profile of him was available, along with some personal and professional data.
According to his profile, he is a Jewish American and his full name is Dr Warren Weinstein, which was confirmed by the US Embassy in Pakistan. A PhD in International Law and Economics and a Masters of International Relations, Warren is also fluent in at least seven languages, including Urdu, and has authored and edited around 13 books on African development since 1966. His wife’s name is Elaine who is living at Weinstein’s home in Rockville with other family members. According to his friends and colleagues, “He’s a short, funny man with a quick wit”. A local journalist who last saw Weinstein about a year ago said he could speak a fair amount of Urdu and was a laid-back guy not too worried about security issues.
Weinstein has lived in Pakistan for seven years and maintains a principal residence in Islamabad, but also has a home in Lahore where he was living alone. Warren Weinstein was living in a rental residence in Model Town. His double-storey house has two gates and walls that are about 1.8 metres high. The street on which his house is situated contains private security checkpoints, which are usually unmanned during the day. At night, watchmen hired by neighbours are on duty from dusk till dawn. There are around five security cameras installed in his house, but they have been inactive for a year. He was kidnapped by unidentified armed men late on last Saturday. Police have taken his security guards and a driver into custody for questioning, but no clue has been found as to the identity of his captors and the motive behind his kidnapping.
He had eight servants in his Lahore residence, including five guards from a Defence-based security company who were retired commandos of the army’s Special Services Group and a driver, a cook and a housekeeper who was responsible for maintenance of the house and ironing his cloths. One of his security guards named Muhammad Aurangzeb from Sargodha was court-martialled from the army. The second guard, Muhammad Abbas, belonged to Chichawatni, the third, Muhammad Sarwar was from Sheikhupura, while the fourth guard, Fazal Elahi, was from Charsadda and ran away from his military service. Police sources further said that his company had requested local police to provide security to Warren Weinstein, but that he personally refused, saying that he did not want to stand out. About Weinstein’s driver, sources said that his name is Israr and he belonged to Swabi district of Khyber Pukhtunkhwa and had been working with JE Austin Associates for the last four years, while his cook was also from FATA.
The FBI is also investigating the case along with local police investigators. According to sources, investigators were informed by Weinstein’s employees that he never received any threat from any side in Pakistan as far as they knew.
It is worth mentioning that the security guards’ mobile phones, which the kidnappers snatched, remained active for around 45 minutes after the kidnapping and that the last connectivity was detected on the motorway. Kidnappers later switched off the phones. No one has yet claimed responsibility for the kidnapping. The police, with the help of the guards and the driver, have developed sketches of the suspects, who were wearing shirts and trousers and were speaking Urdu. Sources said that a laptop, cellphones and other items found in the victim’s room were being thoroughly examined.