The rescue (July 2) of Ms Ingrid Betancourt, the Colombian Presidential candidate kidnapped in 2002 by Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), a leftist guerrilla group active in Colombia since the 60s, hit the headlines across Europe and America. FARC is a well known Colombian guerrilla group which started as a Communist peasant party in the 60s, now rumoured to be funded by US drug money. The successful operation has all the qualities of a thriller movie: politics, mystery and deception, guerrilla camps, helicopters, soldiers and drama; and the daughter of a beauty queen at the centre of it all. The climax was a reunion in Bogot in a family "orgy of kisses," TV cameras sending live images across the world. There is even the character of a male nurse, a corporal in the army who nursed Ms Betancourt back to health from several ailments that she suffered in captivity. At one point she contemplated suicide. The operation for her rescue launched by the Colombian government with active participation of the French and the Americans, spy satellites tracing guerrilla movements in the Andes, resulted in her release and that of three (American) Defense Department contractors who were taken hostage after a mysterious plane crash in 2003. Eleven Colombian policemen were also released. The FARC continue to hold at least 40 high profile hostages that they want to exchange for some of there colleagues being held by the Colombian authorities. It is believed that the FARC are holding about 700 hostages. Launched after meticulous planning through a number of under cover agents who went in as humanitarian aid workers, the rescue was dramatic. As a tail piece to it, humanitarian agencies that are already beset by difficulties inherent in the complex socio political context of Colombia have protested at the cover used by the agents. This operation, they fear, is going to add to the suspicions of the guerrillas about them. Ms Betancourt comes from a distinguished family of migrs who can trace their origins to France three centuries ago. Ingrid's father was a well known diplomat who served the military regime in Colombia in several prominent positions abroad. In Paris, where she was raised, her parents had property on Avenue Foch, a posh residential area in the central district. (Grace Kelly, the actress turned princess after her marriage to Prince Rainier of Monaco, had an apartment here. If you waited long enough you could see her come out to walk her dog when she was in town.) Ingrid Betancourt married a French diplomat (later divorced) which makes her a French-Colombian politician, explaining the French interest in her release, her immediate flight after her rescue to France and a hero's welcome there. Betancourt, an activist herself, leads the Green Oxygen Party and her politics are substantially conservationist anti-drug trafficking. A lady so prominent and of such aristocratic descent must have been a high value bargain chip for FARC who must have done all they could to protect and guard her. But it was through a guard, his wife to be precise, that the network was penetrated and Ms Betancourt and others rescued in a dramatic operation "without a shot fired" as the authorities proudly claim. In normal circumstances, there would be several casualties in such an action. There was a time though when kidnapping for ransom was unknown outside the tribal area. But it was not for ransom alone that the tribesmen kidnapped. And when they did, the captives who were in their total protection were treated with respect and hospitality. The story of Mollie Ellis, a British Major's daughter kidnapped from Kohat cantonment in 1923 by Ajab Khan Afridi avenging a slight is now a legend. In the eighties, Mollie, then an elderly person came back to the Adam Khel on a nostalgic visit and brought presents for her captors. But over the years, the situation has changed and Ajab Khan is history. The Afghan jihad has played havoc with the tribal culture and society now going through turmoil. Foreign interference, supported actively by the Government of Pakistan, has all but destroyed the tribal fabric so carefully woven over centuries. Hopefully, the chaos will not prove to be too traumatic for Pakistan to survive without damage. If there are 700 hostages with FACH, kidnapping for ransom is a daily affair in cities like Karachi, such a peaceful and fun city in the sixties. In other cities, thanks to widespread poverty and unemployment, it is not uncommon. If you add the number of disappeared persons, the total may not be much lower than the Colombian figure. Phone, bike or car snatching would be in hundreds every day, the citizens believe. Police data is chronically unreliable. The Citizen Police Liaison Committee (CPLC) fears that the actual figures are much higher than recorded. Most kidnapping cases, if not all, are settled on payment of ransom, overtly or covertly. No big deal. There are rumours that Ingrid Betancourt's rescue too was all play acting after a ransom of 20 million dollars had been paid to FARC The writer is a former inspector general of police