Lahore: Pakistani police on Thursday released the sketch of one of the suspects involved in the abduction of American aid expert Warren Weinstein, even as a provincial minister caused consternation by claiming the 70-year-old US national was involved in intelligence gathering.
Police in Lahore issued the sketch of the suspect wanted for the kidnapping of Weinstein, the country head of the US-based consulting firm J E Austin Associates, who was abducted at gunpoint from his residence on August 13.
The sketch depicted a clean-shaven man believed to be in his twenties. The suspect allegedly pointed out the target to the kidnappers and was the only one not wearing a mask.
The sketch was prepared with the help of information provided by Weinstein`s servants and driver. Police had detained several people, including Weinstein`s guards and driver, for questioning.
Officials have said, that their investigation has so far drawn a blank and they are yet to uncover the motive for the abduction. They said lie detector tests would be conducted on the detained persons.
In a related development, Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah, who is also responsible for security in the province, caused widespread surprise by telling the media that he believed Weinstein was involved gathering intelligence on sensitive matters and other "mysterious activities".
"Dr Warren Weinstein`s activities were mysterious like those of Raymond Davis," Sanaullah said, referring to a CIA contractor, who was arrested in Lahore earlier this year after he shot and killed two armed men.
Sanaullah, who has been under a cloud for some time for his links with banned groups like the Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan, did not provide any evidence to back up his claim.
He only claimed, that Weinstein had refused offers to post police guards at his house and contended this made his activities "suspicious".
The minister`s remarks angered rights activists and members of the aid community, who know Weinstein and they pointed out the American had been working to help small businesses for years.
The US Embassy too denied that Weinstein was an intelligence operative. Personnel from the US Federal Bureau of Investigation have been helping the Lahore Police in investigating the abduction.
Officials of the US Consulate here have visited the Model Town residence-cum-office of Weinstein for their own investigation and to collect evidence.
The Americans spent some time at the residence and examined all its rooms. They inspected the landline telephones and equipment installed in the double-storey house.
The Americans later visited the office of the Superintendent of Police (Investigation) in Model Town and held discussions on the investigation. They also examined Weinstein`s BlackBerry mobile phone and laptop, which are in
Sources said the BlackBerry was still locked and its call data was yet to be checked as it would take some time to unlock the set.
Police officials said, about 10 gunmen stormed Weinstein`s house, while his guards were preparing for `sehri`, the pre-dawn meal before fasting begins in the Islamic holy month of Ramzan.
No group has claimed responsibility for the kidnapping. Weinstein was due to return to the US on August 15 after concluding his contract.
A Swiss couple was kidnapped in Balochistan last month. The Taliban later claimed responsibility for their kidnapping.
In February 2009, an American working for the UN was kidnapped and held for two months in Balochistan.