Shahbaz Taseer, son of slain Punjab governor, seized in Lahore
Armed men abducted him this morning as he went to work. His mobile phones, laptop and other personal items were thrown away. Experts believe he will be used to obtain the release of his father’s murderer. Catholic Church slams the act.
Lahore (AsiaNews) – Four armed men seized Shahbaz Taseer (pictured), son of Punjab Governor Salman Taseer who was slain on 4 January because of his fight against Muslim extremism. He was on his Mercedes on his way to work at World Call. This morning he was without his usual escort.
At 10.54 am, a few metres from the entrance, a motorbike stopped in front of Shahbaz’s car, forcing it to halt. Four men came out of a black Toyota Land Cruiser and took him away at gunpoint.
People present at the scene said that, after throwing away Taseer’s mobile phones and laptop, they drove off in the direction of the Defence Housing Authority.
Since his father’s murder, the Taseer family had been the object of threats and intimidations from the Taliban and Muslim fundamentalists.
Salman Taseer was murdered at the start of the year because of his opposition to the blasphemy provisions of the Pakistan Penal Code, which he had described as a ‘black law’, and his defence of Asia Bibi, a 45-year-old mother of five who is waiting for the court to hear her appeal against the death sentence imposed on her for blasphemy.
The slain Punjab governor strongly backed the campaign for her release, together with Shahbaz Bhatti, the Catholic Minority Minister, who was also killed by unknown extremists.
Now his son Shahbaz has become a victim. Some experts believe that he might be used to free Mumtaz Qadri, the bodyguard who killed Salman Taseer, becoming a “hero” for Pakistan’s Muslim extremists.
For Punjab police, it is still unclear why he was kidnapped. They wonder why the kidnappers did not take the car, mobile phones, laptop and other objects. However, they did say that they would do all in their power to rescue him and that they would not rule out any anything, even if it leads them to Mumtaz Qadri.
Shahbaz’s sister, Sherbano Taseer, has already left Pakistan fearing more violence. Her mother Amina is in shock and has not yet made any statements. After her husband’s murder, she had worried about her son’s fate.
For their part, Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani and current Punjab Governor Shahbaz Sharif said that everything would be done to secure Taseer’s release.
Pakistan’s Catholic Church has condemned the abduction. Fr Xavier Francis, from the Diocese of Lahore, told AsiaNews that Catholics were grateful to Salman Taseer for his solidarity towards religious minorities.
“The murders of Taseer and Bhatti and the extremism and intolerance that such acts displayed were not isolated incidents,” he explained. “Extremism is now part of mainstream Pakistan”.
Prayers will be said for Shahbaz Taseer and his family, he added. “Let us hope that he comes home unharmed.”