LAHORE: Former Punjab governor Salman Taseer's son Shahbaz Taseer has been recovered from Balochistan, almost five years after he was kidnapped, officials told Geo News on Tuesday.
According to Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), the media wing of Pakistan Army, Shahbaz Taseer was taken into protective custody from a hotel in Kuchlak approximately 20 kilometers away from the provincial capital, Quetta.
Meanwhile, according to the owner of a hotel, who refused to make a statement on camera, a shabby looking man wearing grey shalwar kameez came to his hotel and ordered some food, paid his bill and requested to use the owner's phone which was not granted.
The man was then told to use the phone outside, which he did and a short while later was picked up by FC personnel. That man was Shahbaz Taseer, the hotel owner claimed.
"Mr Taseer has been safely recovered. He is appearing in good health (...) and is in police custody," Balochistan government spokesman Anwar-ul-Haq Kakar told Geo News.
Taseer was kidnapped from Lahore on Aug 26, 2011 near his company’s head office, a few months after the assassination of his father Salman Taseer at the hands of his body guard Mumtaz Qadri.
The development comes days after Qadri was hanged to death for the murder of the former Punjab governor.
Conflicting reports about Shahbaz's whereabouts surfaced soon after his abduction in 2011. The then CCPO of Lahore, Malik Ahmed Raza had said that the slain governor’s son’s presence in Lahore can’t be ruled out as the police were pulling out the data from his phones’ call logs.
Later, he issued a statement saying that Shahbaz Taseer had been provided a security escort comprising of Rangers and police, but he was not using them at the time of his kidnapping.
Raza had said that two of his kidnappers were traveling on a motorcycle and the remaining others were in a Land Cruiser Prado. The Lahore Police chief also said the kidnappers threw their Kalashnikov near a roundabout and passed through the Cavalry ground towards the Defence area after abducting Shahbaz.
Later that year, the then interior minister Rehman Malik had said that Shahbaz Taseer was alive and being held near the Pak-Afghan border without giving out any further details.
During the same news conference Malik said Al-Qaeda and Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan also wanted to kidnap PPP co-chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari.
DG ISPR releases latest pictures of Shahbaz Taseer
DG ISPR Lt-Gen Asim Bajwa released latest pictures of Shahbaz Taseer taken after his release today.
“Latest pics of Mr Shahbaz Taseer taken at Quetta,9:30 PM today.In full protection,he is hale and hearty,” he tweeted.
There is a clear contrast between his post and pre-abduction appearances. A bearded Shahbaz can be seen in the latest pictures wearing a Pashtun attire.
Latest pics of Mr Shahbaz Taseer taken at Quetta,9:30 PM today.In full protection,he is hale and hearty pic.twitter.com/MqmfYtEzcX— Gen Asim Bajwa (@AsimBajwaISPR) March 8, 2016
Malala congratulates Taseer family
Malala Yousufzai and her family congratulated Taseer family on the recovery of Shahbaz. She said trust of Pakistanis has increased in the country's security institutions.
Malala's mother Toorpekai said Taseer family has suffered a lot, they deserve happiness, as a mother she can relate to the pain Shahbaz Taseer's mother went through.
She said she is also praying for the recovery of former prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani's son.
Malala's father Ziauddin said: "Today is a great day for Pakistan and Pakistani law enforcement agencies deserve praise for this achievement."
Reactions pour in on Shahbaz Taseer's recovery
Family, friends and well wishers welcomed the news of Shahbaz Taseer’s recovery with many gathering at the Taseer residence with bouquets of flowers to celebrate Shabaz Taseer's safe release after nearly fives years in captivity.
Former prime minister Yusuf Raza Gilani whose own son Ali Haider Gilani was also kidnapped in a similar fashion in 2013 congratulated the Taseer family by telephone upon hearing the news.
Speaking to Geo News, Gilani said he wasn’t sure if Taseer and his son were held captive together adding it would only become clear once he met Shahbaz.
Politicians and notables took to social media to express their happiness and extend their congratulations to the family on the safe recovery of Shahbaz Taseer.
Gilani’s youngest son was kidnapped during an election campaign rally on May 9, 2013. His secretary and a bodyguard were killed and four people wounded during the incident.
Shahbaz Taseer was kidnapped on 26th August 2011 as he drove to work in Lahore.
In CCTV obtained by Geo News in 2011, Shahbaz Taseer's sports can be clearly seen turning on to Ameerudin road at 10:19:05 AM. Moments later a second car turns into the street but immediately reverses back. A security guard is also visible at the corner of the street.
In another CCTV video the kidnapper's motorcycle can be seen passing the crime scene at 10:23:34 AM. Four seconds later a car and then a pick-up pass by the scene, it was assumed the same vehicles were used in the kidnapping.