Govt not ‘pressing for release of Gilani, Taseer’

Published April 15, 2014
Opposition leader Syed Khursheed Shah. — File Photo
Opposition leader Syed Khursheed Shah. — File Photo

ISLAMABAD: Opposition leader Syed Khursheed Shah on Monday criticised the government for its apathy in securing the release of Shahbaz Taseer and Ali Haider Gilani, sons of former Punjab governor Salmaan Taseer and former prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, respectively.

“Shahidullah Shahid himself said the government had not demanded their release. We won’t accept such talks,” Shah, who is a senior leader of Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), said in a statement.

Shah said the opposition had ‘reservations’ regarding the current TTP-government talks but the ruling party was trying to “spin the issue”.

“The PPP supported the government’s decision to negotiate with militants, but the government is trying to paint the opposition as opponents of the peace process,” Shah said, adding that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif should take notice of such deliberate attempts to misrepresent the opposition’s stance.

Commenting on the apparent tensions between the ruling PML-N and the army, Shah posed his own questions to the government. “What sparked these tensions? How did the situation come about,” he asked in a pointed manner.

He also called out Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan for referring to Islamabad as ‘a safe city’. “Despite the recent bombing at the Sabzi Mandi which claimed 25 lives, the interior minister still maintains that Islamabad is safe. It may be safe for him, since he travels in a bullet-proof vehicle,” he said.

The government has claimed on a number of occasions that it is demanding the release of Ali Haider Gilani and Shahbaz Taseer, who are thought to be captive in Taliban hands.However, media reports published soon after the first meeting between government’s and TTP's negotiators in March 23, claimed the Taliban had refused to release both Gilani and Taseer.

Ali Haider Gilani was kidnapped in an attack on a corner meeting in his constituency in Multan, in the run-up to the May 2013 general elections. His secretary and a guard were shot dead by unknown gunmen during the attack. Shahbaz Taseer, son of the slain former Punjab governor, was kidnapped while on his way to work, in the Gulberg area of Lahore on April 27, 2011.

The government has reportedly released dozens of what it calls ‘non-combatant’ Taliban and the opposition has been pressing the government to secure reciprocation from the TTP.

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