Second high profile kidnapping in Pakistan targets son of slain governor Salman Taseer
The son of a slain governor in Pakistan — who was killed for opposing the country’s notorious blasphemy law — was kidnapped recently in an upscale neighborhood in Lahore.
Shahbaz Taseer, 28, was on his way to work when he was abducted. He is the son of the late governor of Punjab, Salman Taseer, who was murdered on Jan. 4, by his own bodyguard.
Shahbaz was riding in his car in Gulberg, an upscale area in Lahore, when four gun-wielding men who were riding motorcycles intercepted his silver Mercedes car.
The gunmen forced Shahbaz out of his vehicle, then shoved him into a waiting SUV car which sped away. To date, there have been no ransom demands, and there are no firm suspects yet.
Although Shahbaz had government-assigned security, at the time of the abduction none of his guards were present. His father, the elder Taseer, was killed by his own bodyguard, Malik Mumtaz Qadri, who later told officials he did this because Taseer opposed the blasphemy law.
Qadri was hailed by some public sectors as a hero for his deed. Under the blasphemy law, it is a crime to insult prophet Muhammad, the Qur’an and the Islamic faith. Oftentimes the law has been used to settle personal scores.
Taseer made the bold gesture of visiting Asia Bibi, a Christian woman with four young children, who was handed the death sentence for the crime of blasphemy. Bibi’s case drew international attention to the infamous blasphemy law. (See http://theundergroundsite.com/index.php/2011/01/muslim-pakistani-governor-assassinated-for-slamming-blasphemy-law-14988/).
Shahbaz, who is primarily a businessman, is a director of a number of companies that were founded by his father, such as Media Times Ltd., First Capital Securities Corp. Ltd., Pace Pakistan Ltd., and First Capital Equities Ltd.
However, it was also Shahbaz who filed criminal charges against Qadri for the murder of his father.
Punjab’s law minister, Rana Sanaullah, suggested Islamic militants may be behind the kidnapping of Shahbaz. He told reporters, “This is a very distressing incident. Involvement of terrorist organizations in abduction incidents is getting grave across the country,” LA Times reported.
The incident has raised concerns that extremist elements may be targeting the Taseer family, some members of whom still continue to slam intolerance in Pakistani society.
Shehryar Taseer, brother of the kidnap victim, told Reuters, “Our family has been receiving threats from the Taliban and extremist groups.”
Second high profile kidnapping in one month
This is the second time within one month that a high-profile kidnapping occurred in Lahore. Two weeks before, on Aug. 13, American aid expert Warren Weinstein, 70, was abducted from his home by eight gunmen just before dawn.
Weinstein, who is country director of J.E. Austin Associates Inc., was involved in a project in the country’s northwestern tribal areas where Islamic insurgents have been fighting government troops for years.
The American victim had been working in Pakistan for seven years. He was kidnapped just two days before he was supposed to go back to the U.S. Last Thursday, police raided a home in Khushab town thinking he might be there, but the kidnappers had already fled with Weinstein before the police arrived.