Misfortune struck the Taseer family a second time this year. Shahbaz Taseer, eldest son of slain former governor Punjab Salmaan Taseer and his widow Amna, was abducted in broad daylight from Lahore’s Gulberg area on Friday morning.
In the second high-profile case within a fortnight in Lahore, Taseer was abducted on the way to his office by at least three armed men.
The kidnapping brought the Punjab government, particularly its security apparatus, under sharp scrutiny – ironically, at a time when the provincial chief minister was in Karachi lecturing his Sindh counterparts on the worsening law and order situation in the port city.
Earlier on August 13, armed men abducted American aid expert Warren Weinstein from his residence in Model Town. No progress on the case has been reported yet.
(Read: Yet another kidnapping)
Taseer left his residence in Cavalry Ground at 10:10 AM in a silver Mercedes Kompressor and was intercepted around 10:19 AM by a black Land Cruiser and a motorcycle, around 600 yards away from his office, close to MM Alam Road.
At least three men dragged Taseer out of his car and took him away, leaving his mobile phones and laptops in the car.
Taseer’s family was informed of the abduction around 10:35 AM when a company employee saw the abandoned car while passing by, sources said.
The kidnappers reportedly headed towards Firdous Market via Cavalry Flyover, which leads to DHA Lahore and the cantonment areas.
A traffic warden in the area reported a black Land Cruiser, a white Corolla and a motorcycle speeding through the area, taking a sharp turn, and dropping a Kalashnikov from one of the cars.
“Our family has been receiving threats from the Taliban and extremist groups,” his brother Sheryar Taseer said, adding they could be behind the abduction.
Official sources, however, said that Taseer had some property disputes and had also been receiving threats recently. So far, no one has claimed responsibility for the abduction.
The police retrieved CCTV footage from the area to help with investigations.
Taseer, who reportedly commutes in a silver Prado with Elite Force and police guards, was travelling without any police escort on Friday.
One of the guards posted with Taseer was taken into custody and had his weapon seized when the police questioned him at the crime scene.
He revealed that another guard was on leave and that he did not leave the house with Taseer but was later asked to go to the office.
According to the Capital City Police Officer (CCPO) Lahore Ahmed Raza, two police personnel, Liaquat and Sharafat, were posted with Taseer.
The Taseer family had a total of 17 police and five Rangers personnel posted with them, including five ladies police staffers, two assistant sub-inspectors and four head constables, police sources said.
Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif issued directives to Inspector General of Police (IG) Punjab and Chief Secretary Punjab to take immediate action. A Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) team under Director FIA Punjab started the investigations and a National Response Center for Cyber Crimes (NR3C) team visited the office, home and crime scene to collect forensic evidence.
The federal government directed the Intelligence Bureau (IB) and the FIA to provide technical assistance to Punjab police for tracing the kidnappers and recovering Taseer.
Intelligence officials also visited the crime scene, and Taseer’s residence and office to collect evidence and information.
Meanwhile, Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah said that all entry and exit points of the city have been sealed following the abduction.
All security agencies are investigating the kidnapping and a joint investigation team has been formed, he added.
Taseer, the eldest son of former governor Salmaan Taseer, is a director in several companies his father founded, including Pace Pakistan Ltd., First Capital Equities Ltd., Media Times Ltd. and First Capital Securities Corp Ltd.
Three leads for investigators
The law enforcement agencies are investigating Taseer’s abduction from three different angles, sources told The Express Tribune on Friday.
Taseer allegedly had a row with tenants at Pace shopping mall whom he had asked to vacate, owing to modifications to the mall’s basement. The tenants claimed damages and on being refused, threatened Shahbaz with dire consequences, sources said.
The Taseers also had a dispute with a major real estate tycoon of the country which came to light when both parties accused each other of malpractices through news items in publications owned respectively by them.
The second suspects are extremists, sources say. The Taseers have been receiving severe threats from extremist groups since Salmaan Taseer’s assassination. Shahbaz, particularly, had been receiving threats since August 10, 2011, family as well as intelligence sources said.
(Read: Taseer’s remarks about blasphemy law)
The law enforcement agencies are also considering Shahbaz’s personal dispute with an alleged girlfriend, sources added.
The police recovered at least three mobile phone sets including a BlackBerry, an iPhone and a Nokia E Series, besides a laptop, from his car.
The three SIM cards on these phones are in Shahbaz, his father-in-law and former bureaucrat Salmaan Ghani and an alleged girlfriend’s name.
Investigators have retrieved call records of all SIM cards, and his email records, and are analysing them.
Interior Minister Rehman Malik has sought report from FIA regarding Taseer’s abduction. The agency has sent the report to the interior minister and the interior secretary.
Condemnations flew in from all quarters following Taseer’s abduction.
Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf Chairman Imran Khan visited the victim’s house and appealed to the persons behind abduction to release Taseer.
Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid also condemned Taseer’s abduction in a statement and added that around 33,000 incidents of kidnapping have taken place during Sharif’s term in Punjab.
Meanwhile, Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) also expressed alarm at Taseer’s abduction and called upon the government to ensure his prompt recovery.
According to the HRCP statement, Taseer’s abduction “highlights the government’s inability to afford security and protection even to those known to be at high risk.”
Published in The Express Tribune, August 27th, 2011.
Correction: An earlier version of this article misspelled Salmaan Taseer's name. The correction has been made.
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