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Slain Pak Governor's son kidnapped

August 26, 2011 14:39 IST

Shahbaz Taseer, the son of Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer who was killed for opposing Pakistan's controversial blasphemy laws, was on Friday abducted by four gunmen near his office in Lahore.

The armed men travelling in a four-wheeler intercepted Shahbaz's car on Hussain Chowk in Gulberg area when he was going to his office along with his friend, Senior Superintendent Police (Investigation) Abdur Razzaq Cheema said.

"After intercepting Shahbaz's car the armed men beat his friend and took him away on their four wheeler," he said. He said Shahbaz's friend immediately informed the police on emergency number about the incident.

"Witnesses told us that the kidnappers' vehicle moved towards Firdos Chowk and on way they also dropped a Triple 2 rifle," Cheema said, adding all the exit points of the city had been manned.

Punjab province's Law Minister Rana Sanaullah claimed that "terrorist organisations" were involved in Shahbaz's abduction.

SSP Cheema said two lab tops and a cell phone had been recovered from the Mercedes car of Shahbaz. To a question about the involvement of any religious extremist group in the incident, he said, "At the moment the  police have no idea about the kidnappers".

After the assassination of Salmaan Taseer in January by his security guard who was angered by his opposition to blasphemy laws, security was given to his family members by the Punjab government, but it was surprising that no police guard was with Shahbaz when the incident took place.

"We have deputed two Elite Force personnel with Shahbaz but on Friday they were not with him and we will investigate it," Lahore Police chief Ahmed Raza Tahir said.

To a question whether the kidnapping could be a result of some business dispute, Tahir said "it will be premature to say anything about it till the investigation" is over. On the other hand, Law Minister Sanaullah claimed that terrorist organisations operating in South Waziristan tribal region were involved in Shahbaz's abduction.

"The militants of South Waziristan come here and commit crime," he said and claimed that his government would soon recover Shahbaz and an American aid expert who was abducted on August 13 from Lahore's Model Town area.

But he could not give a reply when asked whether Shahbaz was abducted to pressure the government to free Mumtaz Qadri, the killer of his father. The Taseer family had been receiving threats since the killing of the Governor in January this year at the hands of his own security guard Qadri of Elite Force.

Shahbaz's younger brother Shaheyar is the complainant in the case. Shahbaz, who was primarily looking after the business affairs of the family, got married to the daughter of a top bureaucrat of Punjab government over a year ago.

The Taseer family was also reportedly planning to quit the country after selling its businesses in Pakistan. Confessing to his crime, Qadri had said he had killed Salmaan Taseer for "committing blasphemy."

A case against him was underway in an Anti-Terrorism Court. Religious extremist groups had warned the court and the government against convicting Qadri, claiming that he had  done a "commendable job by killing a blasphemer."

Salmaan Taseer, who was in his 60s, was also a successful businessman and publisher of an English-language newspaper Daily Times. A secular-minded member of the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party, he was quite vocal in his opposition to the religious extremists throughout his life.

He demanded repeal Pakistan's controversial blasphemy laws, which were passed under the military dictator General Ziaul Haq as a way to "promote Islam in Pakistan".

Aasia Bibi, a Christian woman of Nankana Sahib district, some 80 kilometers from here, was handed down death sentence for allegedly committing blasphemy. Salmaan Taseer had gone to see her in the jail and assured her that he would get the sentence commuted from President Asif Ali Zardari.

He was against misuse of the laws to convict minority Pakistanis.
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