Escaping after almost five years in captivity, enduring unparalleled forms of pain and still coming out with the will to live is an achievement very few can claim. With a book in the pipeline and a baby on the way, Shahbaz Taseer is not just our Personality of the Year but also a living testament that miracles can happen
On March 8, 2016, people around Pakistan rejoiced as news broke that Shahbaz Taseer had escaped and was on his way back after almost five years in captivity. Whether people knew Taseer or not, the nation breathed a sigh of relief as pictures flooded across news channels and social media, confirming that this brave young man had finally begun his journey back home. There are many forms of achievements in the world and this year, Taseer showed us how one man’s personal victory and struggle is above and beyond material victories. In a candid interview, our Personality of the Year explains his daily struggles, what inspired him to fight back and what the future entails for him.
It’s the small things we take for granted that Taseer is now adjusting to. “My struggle is very personal,” says Taseer. “I know only I can normalise my situation, but nothing has been a better learning experience than adjusting back to my life.” Being able to wake up, have a cup of tea and read the newspaper is possibly one of the most mundane activities in one’s day, but for Taseer it is a brand new experience.
Having lived amongst some of the most horrific people of our time, Taseer considers coming out the same person he was before, as a victory for himself. “It is very easy to lose your mind when you are in a situation like that, and I would wonder and recount the worst things I had ever done to anyone in life, but nothing I had ever done justified what I was being put through.” Through the darkest period of his life, Taseer’s late father, Salmaan Taseer gave him the courage to survive and fight back. “Just a few days before my father passed away, he said you live life once, so live courageously and on your own terms; you are only answerable to God and no man, so do what you feel is right,” shares Taseer, “and that for me became a reason to survive. I kept telling myself that I am a Taseer, I am that great man’s son and I can survive this.”
When hope is a fleeting emotion, survival becomes the greatest form of torture. Not being able to connect with anyone and figuring out a purpose to fight became Taseer’s hardest plight. “You can learn to be in pain and without a bed, but not being able to connect with anyone is beyond painful.” Taseer grew up knowing people who sacrificed their lives for a cause they believed in, but in his darkest hour he could not understand what he was fighting for. While in captivity Taseer felt like he was watching a TV show where the lead character was missing and coming to terms with that became very hard. “I am not Nelson Mandela and I am not Muhammad Ali, but I am Salmaan Taseer’s son and in the end that is what kept me alive,” he continues, “I didn’t have a cause that I believed in or was willing to die for, I didn’t know what struggling for a cause was like but I knew my captors had taken me for what my father believed, and that became my cause and my fight. I had to survive for my father, that is what inspired me every single day, because everyday that I lived and became stronger, my captors could not break me, and I felt my father winning. My father is victorious through me in death and I cannot be more proud of being his son. I have the Taseer blood in me, and that blood demands sacrifice.”
Taseer has much to look forward to as the world awaits his book; however he is most excited about becoming a father in January 2017. “Nine months ago if you had said to me that I was going to be a dad, I would have laughed because I didn’t think it was possible!” Taseer exclaims. “Fatherhood will take up most of 2017 for me, and this miracle baby coming into my life just shows how merciful God can be. You know how to be a son, a husband and a friend but being a father is something so unreal that I still cannot believe I have been this lucky,” he smiles.
As he pens down the horrors he faced in the last five years, and pours his struggle out on paper, he is grateful to have the opportunity to tell his story. “Writing to me is a form of art. My father wrote a book, my grandfather was a poet and the beauty of this book is that it’s very personal to me, it’s a way of healing and adapting for what is yet to come.”
To see this man walk around and be strong for those around him is inspiring. His resilience, strength and the ability to have a smile on his face despite everything he has gone through is more than enough to make him our Personality of the Year 2016. More power to you Shahbaz Taseer!