Shahbaz Taseer freed

Published March 10, 2016

THE return of Shahbaz Taseer to his family after spending four and a half years in captivity has sent a wave of optimism across the country.

The kidnapping, that took place some months after the assassination of Mr Taseer’s father Salmaan Taseer in 2011, had raised several questions about the motives and identity of the kidnappers.

Meanwhile, one can only imagine the relief and joy of the Taseer family and hope for a similar outcome for Ali Haider Gilani — the son of former prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani — who was kidnapped in 2013.

Considering that both Mr Taseer and Mr Gilani are scions of families with clout in the corridors of power, one wonders what the plight of common citizens who have undergone a similar ordeal must be.

After all, there are hundreds of other families in the country waiting to be reunited with their loved ones. This moment affords an opportunity to stress the importance of energising all efforts for their recovery.

Meanwhile, speculation continues in the case of Mr Taseer regarding his recovery. The earliest statements given by the Balochistan police and Frontier Corps conflict with reports given by locals in Kuchlak about the circumstances of Mr Taseer’s recovery.

Locals say Mr Taseer walked into a restaurant, had a meal, paid for it and asked for a phone to be able to make a call, implying that he had already been released by his captors. But police and Frontier Corps speak of a ‘raid’ at a local hotel, during which they found the premises to be empty with only Shahbaz Taseer inside who identified himself to them.

This kind of confusion doesn’t inspire confidence in the account of the law enforcers, and should be cleared up at the earliest.

There are also questions about whether the recovery, or release, of Shahbaz Taseer might be linked with an earlier search operation that was conducted in Kuchlak on Feb 25, and during which around 30 Afghans were taken into custody, as well as similar search operations in that area a few days earlier. Did intelligence acquired from one of those taken into captivity lead to Mr Taseer’s recovery?

The circumstances surrounding his abduction also remain shrouded in mystery. Unless there is clarity, speculation is bound to be rife.

For instance, some media reports claim the abduction was the handiwork of a small Lahore-based cell of college-educated youth with loose ties to militant groups, who also ‘freelance’ as organised criminals.

In the absence of more authoritative information about the episode, various reports will undoubtedly continue to circulate in this fashion.

The authorities should do their best to prevent that and brief the public about the episode at the earliest.

Published in Dawn, March 10th, 2016

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