A SECOND deadline given by kidnappers in Pakistan expired yesterday with no fresh word on the fate of Daniel Pearl, the American reporter with The Wall Street Journal who disappeared in Karachi more than a week ago while working on a report about Islamic militants.
But in the absence of new leads, one teasing fact about Mr Pearl's abduction preoccupies those groping for a way to rescue him: e-mail.
President George Bush drew attention to that aspect of the case. He said in the Oval Office: "We are working with Pakistan to chase down any leads possible. For example, trying to follow the trail of the e-mails that have been sent ... We have some leads. The e-mails could provide leads." Pakistani police are also intrigued by the e- mails, the one feature of the case that makes it stand out from the typical and all too routine kidnappings.
Karachi and other parts of Sindh province have seen countless kidnappings in recent years; the interior of Sindh has been out of bounds to foreigners without armed escorts for years, for just that reason. But the standard kidnapping is ther work of criminals motivated by greed. None of them used sophisticated means of communication or showed other signs of education.
All the communications from Mr Pearl's abductors have come in the form of e-mails from a Hotmail account in the name of "kidnapperguy". Someone in the kidnappers' cell knows not only how to write and send e-mails, but also how to open a Hotmail account: not difficult but something that requires a modicum of computer literacy and experience. In addition, the …