Shahbaz Taseer’s return


The safe return of Shahbaz Taseer, the kidnapped son of the slain Punjab governor Salmaan Taseer, on Tuesday evening ended the four-and-a-half long years of wait between hope and despair for his family and wishers. It has given cause for optimism to former prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani as well for the recovery of his son, Ali Haider, abducted about three years ago.

The motive behind the kidnapping of the two young men, scions of wealthy families, obviously has been to collect massive ransoms. Both were kidnapped in broad daylight, Shahbaz from his hometown, Lahore, and Ali from Multan and taken away to a location in the then lawless tribal areas, and most likely, onwards into Afghanistan. Which raises disturbing questions such as that how could anyone transport such high profile abductees from Punjab across provincial borders into KPK and beyond? Where were the police? Some media reports say the kidnappers were well-educated Lahore youth with militant connections. It remains to be determined if they used family influence to avoid getting caught along the way.

Meanwhile, mystery surrounds Shahbaz’s homecoming. The police acted too quickly to make false claims and wreck their own credibility. Soon after the news came in, Balochistan IGP, Ahsan Mehboob, said Shahbaz was recovered from a restaurant on the outskirts of Kuchlak by intelligence agencies and personnel from the Counter-Terrorism Department.

Little did he realise that in this age of the media such claims easily get demolished. Soon afterwards, the restaurant personnel described to reporters how a young man with long hair ate at the place and paid Rs 350 bill before borrowing a phone to make a call and stand outside to be whisked away by security people. These details indicate that his captors had willingly set him free handing him some money also so he could find his way home. Most likely, ransom money bought his freedom. Understandably, such a disclosure needed to be avoided. It is common practice by Western governments also to allow families to pay ransom but deny any knowledge so as not to encourage similar crimes. Still, the police could have handled the situation in a better way. An embarrassed Interior Minister has now formed a committee to investigate as to why the IGP gave wrong information.

Now that the tribal areas have mostly been cleared of militants – who, alongside common criminals, have been kidnapping people to extort enormous sums from the victims’ families – it should be easier to stop the use of tribal areas for such crimes.

The police in the settled areas need to get their act together, and nab people in cities like Lahore and Multan who acted in collusion with militants to kidnap Shahbaz and Ali as well as several other people from less privileged backgrounds. As the Taseer family takes a huge sigh of relief others are waiting for the recovery of their near and dear ones, and for the government to bring the kidnappers, their facilitators and accessories to account.

Source: Business Recorder