LAHORE: Shahbaz Taseer, the son of former Governor Punjab Salman Taseer who was recovered from Kuchlak, Balochistan on Tuesday, arrived in Lahore to unite with his family.
According to Director General Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) General Asim Saleem Bajwa, Shahbaz Taseer was flown to Lahore from Quetta in a special aircraft by intelligence officials.
Taseer had been abducted by gunmen from the city of Lahore in August 2011, months after his father Salman Taseer was killed for opposing the country‘s blasphemy laws.
He was found after five years, senior officials said Tuesday, just over a week after his father’s killer was hanged.
He is “hale and hearty”, military spokesman Asim Bajwa said, tweeting two images of the bearded and smiling son of Salmaan Taseer that he said were taken in the southwestern city of Quetta late Tuesday.
Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) have never officially confirmed their involvement in the kidnapping, but a militant source told AFP Tuesday that an 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.
Militant commanders have privately told AFP in the past Taseer was being kept somewhere in the tribal areas of North and South Waziristan.
Pakistan began its operation to clear Taliban and Al-Qaeda strongholds in North Waziristan in 2014. The source Tuesday said Taseer was moved after Operation Zarb-e-Azb was launched.
“Acting on a tip off, intelligence forces and police went to a compound in the Kuchlak district some 25 kilometres north of Quetta” in the southwestern province of Balochistan, said Aitzaz Goraya, head of the provincial counter-terrorism department, who described Taseer as being in “feeble” health.
“We surrounded the compound and we raided it. We didn’t find anyone. A single person was there and he told us my name is Shahbaz and my father’s name is Salmaan Taseer.”
But the owner of a roadside restaurant in Kuchlak told reporters that Taseer was recovered after he came to his restaurant on foot on Tuesday evening, made a phone call and then personnel from paramilitary the Frontier Corps came and picked him up.
“He had grown long hair with a scruffy beard and was frantically asking for a telephone or mobile phone” the owner of Al-Saleem hotel told reporters in Kuchlak.
“He ate food here, paid a bill of 350 rupees and then called someone from a waiter’s mobile,” the owner said, adding that minutes later Frontier Corps personnel arrived.
A second militant source said the Taliban had been demanding up to two billion rupees ($20 million) for Taseer’s release.
Security analyst Imtiaz Gul said it was possible a ransom had been paid and that Taseer had been abandoned by his abductors once they received the money.