- Shahbaz Taseer recovered in ‘intelligence-based raid’ on a house in Balochistan’s Kuchlak area five years after abduction
- Family refuses to comment on speculation that ransom was paid to secure scion’s release from kidnappers’ custody
Shahbaz Taseer, the son of slain former Punjab governor Salmaan Taseer, was reportedly recovered by security and intelligence forces from Balochistan’s Kuchlak area on Tuesday, nearly five years after his abduction in 2011.
“Intelligence agencies have recovered Shahbaz Taseer from an area near Kuchlak, Balochistan,” said a statement released by the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR).
He has now been shifted from Kuchlak to Quetta and is reportedly in stable condition, a security official told Pakistan Today. Doctors were also called to conduct a medical checkup, he added.
Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, who was briefing the Senate on the National Action Plan when the news of Shahbaz’s recovery broke, also confirmed the development.
“I have some good news. I just received information regarding the recovery of Salmaan Taseer’s son,” said the minister, adding that he was hopeful that Shahbaz Taseer would join his family in Lahore on Wednesday.
Aitzaz Goraya, head of the Counter-Terrorism Department (CTD) Balochistan told said that secret services and CTD personnel conducted a raid at a compound in Kuchlak and recovered Shahbaz Taseer.
Kuchlak is a windy town some 25 kilometres north of Balochistan capital Quetta. The district also houses a large number of Afghan refugees.
Security sources are yet to confirm the arrest of kidnappers during the recovery operation.
Goraya described Shahbaz, who is in his early thirties, as being in “stable” health.
Nearly 5 years in captivity:
Shahbaz was kidnapped from Lahore on Aug 26, 2011, near his company’s head office in Gulberg area. He was driving towards the offices of the First Capital Group off MM Alam Road in Gulberg when he was intercepted by the kidnappers.
The abductors who, according to witnesses, used a Prado jeep and a motorcycle, bundled the young Taseer into the four-wheeler and rushed away unimpeded.
No details on the whereabouts of Shahbaz had earlier been made public. However, there were speculations that he was held captive in restive Waziristan by a group that was negotiating the release of Salmaan Taseer’s killer Mumtaz Qadri and other prisoners.
There were also unverified reports of Shahbaz being killed in a drone strike in Waziristan.
The Pakistani Taliban have never officially confirmed their involvement in the kidnapping, but a militant source had said that the army operation in the tribal areas had made it “difficult” for the group to keep him.
“That’s why they preferred to set him free,” the source said.
The militant commanders have privately said in the past that Taseer was being kept somewhere in the tribal areas of North and South Waziristan, but he was moved after Operation Zarb-i-Azb was launched in North Waziristan in 2014.
Shahbaz Taseer’s father-in-law Salman Ghani also confirmed his freedom, but did not give any details.
Security analyst Imtiaz Gul said it was possible a ransom had been paid and that Shahbaz had been abandoned by his abductors once they received the money.
The Pakistani Taliban “are a group of mercenaries with clear links to organised crime”, he said.
The development comes just a week after Salmaan Taseer’s assassin was executed at Rawalpindi’s Adiala Jail.
In another high-profile kidnapping, son of former premier Yousaf Raza Gilani, Ali Haider Gilani was abducted from Multan on May 9, 2013, outside a Pakistan People’s Party office in the run-up to the 2013 general elections.
Yousaf Raza Gilani, while congratulating Taseer family on the recovery of Shahbaz Taseer, expressed hope that his son “Ali Gilani will also be recovered soon”.
Ali Gilani was leaving a PPP street corner meeting outside the house of a local supporter at Matti Tal Road in Farrukh Town when he was kidnapped three years back.
Despite claims from security forces that they had recovered Shahbaz Taseer in an intelligence-based operation, rumours were making rounds that the family had paid ransom to secure the young man’s release.
An informed source told Pakistan Today that the Taseer family had been engaged with the army leadership for the past few weeks regarding Shahbaz’s safe recovery.
“There are reports that the recent contacts were made for payment of ransom,” the source said, adding that some tribal elders had played an important role in facilitating the release.
“The safe recovery of the abductee shows that ransom was paid. Otherwise, it is beyond comprehension why abductors had brought Shahbaz Taseer to such a vulnerable location near Quetta,” the source said, adding that per his information the Taliban had demanded Rs 2 billion but the deal had been agreed at Rs 500 million.
However, a well-placed source in Balochistan government told Pakistan Today that the security personnel had raided a compound located at the backside of a hotel in Kuchlak Bazaar on information that Shahbaz Taseer was being held hostage there.
“Some arrests have also been made but the details are not being shared with the media due to the ongoing operation against the criminals,” the source said.
Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar, spokesman for Baluchistan government confirmed the release of Taseer.
“I confirm that Taseer has been safely recovered. Initial tests have been conducted and Shahbaz is in good health. He is safe and sound with the security forces. He has made initial contact with his family and any decision has to be taken by his family to shift him from Quetta. Balochistan government will fully facilitate in this regard,” he added.
Lauding the security forces for successful operation, Kakar said it is a huge achievement of the security forces.