PAKISTAN – Abducted son of slain governor rescued after five years
QUETTA — Pakistani security agents today rescued the son of a slain governor, abducted five years ago from the eastern city of Lahore just eight months after his father’s assassination, officials said.
According to government spokesman Anwarul Haq Kakar, a joint operation by the country’s intelligence agency, paramilitary forces and the counterterrorism police found Shahbaz Taseer in the Kuchlak area near Quetta, the capital of Pakistan’s restive south-western Baluchistan province, which shares a border with Afghanistan.
The now 33-year-old Taseer was kept hostage in the room behind a local hotel, said the spokesman. Wasay Khan, spokesman of the paramilitary Frontier Corps, said Taseer was safe and well and would be taken to the city of Lahore to be reunited with his family.
The operation was conducted after intelligence reports that some people brought a man from across the border and kept him in Kuchlak, Khan said. He did not provide more details of the rescue operation.
Taseer was abducted in August, 2011, eight months after his father, secular Governor Salman Taseer, was assassinated in Islamabad by his guard Mumtaz Qadri over accusations of blasphemy. Qadri was convicted of the killing and hanged last week in a prison in the garrison city of Rawalpindi. The hanging triggered protests in several cities and tens of thousands of Pakistanis attended Qadri’s funeral in Rawalpindi.
Qadri had said he killed Taseer because the governor had allegedly committed blasphemy by campaigning to change the laws and by supporting a jailed Christian woman accused of desecrating Islam’s holy book The Quran.
Pakistan’s blasphemy laws allow for anyone convicted of insulting Islam or the Prophet Muhammad to be sentenced to death, though people often take the law into their own hands.
In a related development, a group affiliated with the Pakistani Taliban and calling itself Jamat-ul-Ahrar had claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing yesterday outside a courthouse in the north-western city of Shabqadar.
The group said the bombing that killed 17 people –– according to the latest death toll reported today –– was a revenge for the hanging of Qadri. Initially, 11 were reported slain in the explosion but the death toll rose after six of the more than 20 people who were wounded died in hospitals overnight.
The local Pakistani Taliban and allied militant groups have been waging war against the state for over a decade, killing tens of thousands of people. Jamat-ul-Ahrar described the bombing as an attack on the judiciary, which “gives verdicts against God’s divine laws”.
Meanwhile, Pakistan’s military said today it had entered the final phase of an offensive against the militants in the tribal north-western region. Overnight air strikes targeted several hideouts in the town of Shawal, killing 21 militants, according to a statement by the Pakistani army.