Nearly five years after militants abducted him, Salmaan Taseer’s son has come home.
Shahbaz Taseer was reunited with his family on Wednesday, declaring it was “good to be back.” Sporting a freshly-trimmed beard and long hair in images released by the military, Taseer appeared healthy as relatives greeted him at Lahore Airport just over a week after his father’s killer was hanged.
Taseer later posted a public message on Facebook through the account of his wife, Maheen: “I don’t know my Facebook password. But good to be back, dude! —Shabby,” he wrote, signing off with his nickname.
Taseer had been abducted by Islamist gunmen from Lahore on Aug. 26, 2011, months after his father, Salmaan Taseer, was killed for opposing the country’s controversial blasphemy laws.
The governor’s assassin was hanged on Feb. 29 in what analysts described as a “key moment” in Pakistan’s long battle with extremism. The execution, together with Shahbaz’s release, has come as welcome news for Pakistan.
During his captivity, Taseer was moved between locations in the tribal areas and militant outfits, according to multiple rebel commanders.
A Taliban commander in the country’s northwest said late Tuesday that Taseer was initially abducted by the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi sectarian group that is mainly based out of the Punjab, which handed him over to the Pakistani Taliban.
Taseer spent most of his time with Pakistani Taliban fighters who kept him in separate locations in North and South Waziristan, and in areas close to the Afghan border, he added. Two other militant commanders said he was later handed over to the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan which maintains close ties to Al Qaeda. They insisted he was treated well. “Taseer liked to play cricket and so militants had provided him a bat and ball,” said one commander.
On March 8, Taseer was rescued by law enforcement agencies through an intelligence-led operation in Kulchuk, Balochistan. “He is a brave man,” said a senior intelligence official in Quetta, “We must praise him.”