QUETTA/LAHORE: Shahbaz Taseer, a son of slain Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer, was recovered after being held by kidnappers for over four years. He was found in the Kuchlak area, at a place about 25km from Quetta, security officials said on Tuesday.
Balochistan Inspector General Ahsan Mehboob said that Shahbaz was recovered from a hotel on the outskirts of Kuchlak town.
“Intelligence agencies and personnel from the Counter-Terrorism Department (CTD) conducted a raid in the Kuchlak area and recovered Shahbaz Taseer,” IGP Mehboob told Dawn, adding that Shahbaz was freed without incident and that security forces encountered no resistance when they raided the hotel compound.
“Security personnel found a man with overgrown beard and long hair, who identified himself as Shahbaz, son of Salmaan Taseer,” a senior security official, who was part of the team that recovered the missing Taseer, told Dawn.
There were reports about arrests from the area after Shahbaz’s recovery, but officials did not confirm the reports.
After his recovery, Shahbaz was shifted to Quetta. Anwar Kakar, a spokesperson for the Balochistan government, told Dawn that Shahbaz was found to be in good health, physically and mentally. He was then shifted to the Combined Military Hospital in Quetta for a complete medical check-up. Mr Kakar said that arrangements would be made to send him to Lahore by Wednesday.
The son of assassinated Punjab governor was recovered during a security operation in Kuchlak area of Balochistan
However, the authorities seemed reluctant to say anything in this regard and no official statement about his recovery was issued.
Locals claimed that Shahbaz was freed by his captors near a hotel in Kuchlak.
“A man with a beard and long hair came to our hotel, ordered some food and paid Rs350 before leaving,” Mohammad Rahim, the owner of Al-Saleem Hotel, told reporters, adding that he was not sure who that man was.
He said the man had also asked for a cellphone to make a call, but left because one was not available. However, officials did not confirm the hotel owner’s account.
The Senate was in session when the news broke on Tuesday night and PPP Senator Sherry Rehman pointed this out on the floor, asking the interior minister to provide more detail.
Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan then told the house he had received initial reports during house proceedings and had spoken to the Balochistan IG and obtained confirmation during the prayer break.
“A joint operation was conducted in the Kuchlak area and Salmaan Taseer’s son has been recovered. Not today, but we hope he will be reunited with his family soon,” he said.
He claimed that Shahbaz Taseer was recovered during an intelligence-based operation. “We cannot reveal the identities [of his abductors] at this stage for fear of alerting their facilitators and accomplices. More information will be shared once the case reaches a conclusion.”
Celebrations at home
A large number of Shahbaz Taseer’s friends and relatives gathered at the Taseer residence in Cavalry Grounds, Lahore, which was well-protected by a contingent of police commandos and women police personnel.
“We thank God that Shahbaz has been recovered safely. We are also indebted to the security agencies for their efforts to secure his release,” Shehryar Taseer, Shahbaz’s younger brother, told Dawn.
A family member told Dawn that Shahbaz had spoken to his mother soon after his release. “He will arrive here probably tomorrow or day after,” he said, calling on the Punjab government to provide full security to the Taseer family this time around.
PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto also telephoned Shehryar Taseer to congratulate him on his brother’s safe recovery. Bilawal’s father Asif Ali Zardari and sisters Bakhtawar and Aseefa Bhutto also expressed their delight and congratulated the family. They also asked the government to ensure the safe recovery of Ali Haider, son of former prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani.
Mr Gilani also congratulated the Taseer family on Shahbaz Taseer’s safe return and appreciated the role of the security agencies in this regard. “I am very happy for the safe return of Shahbaz. I am also hopeful that the government will make extra effort for the safe and early recovery of my son, Ali Haider,” he told Dawn.
Shahbaz Taseer was kidnapped by unidentified men in Aug 2011 while on his way towards the offices of the First Capital Group, off M.M. Alam Road in Gulberg. According to witnesses, the abductors used a Prado SUV and a motorcycle, bundling the young Taseer into the four-wheeler and rushing away unimpeded. Ali Haider was also abducted by armed men in Multan, just two days before the May 2013 general election.
Published in Dawn, March 9th, 2016