I fervently hope that Shahbaz Taseer is back by the time these lines are published. However, the past few days have been distressing to see the Taseer family facing yet another trying phase. The young Taseer was abducted on a busy Lahore road on August 26. His case is not uncommon in a country where kidnapping is becoming a popular strategy with the state, criminal gangs and militant outfits. Hundreds of Pakistanis are missing across the country for various reasons. Despite the intervention of Superior Courts and pronouncements by the political executive, little progress has been made.
Taseer’s abduction followed the kidnapping of Dr Warren Weinstein, representative of a US consulting firm, J E Austin from his house in an affluent part of Lahore. Dr Weinstein is a 70-year-old man suffering from various ailments and his life is surely in danger. These kidnappings say a lot about the level of policing in the province. A Police Force notorious to suppress citizens especially the poor is obviously ill trained to handle such cases. In fact, the police mishandling of forensic evidence in Shahbaz Taseer’s car — right under the watch of TV cameras — speaks volumes for the incompetence in basic treatment of crime scenes. In the case of Dr Weinstein, as media reports suggest, they may have botched up the recovery process by hasty announcements about his possible location.
In his interview with BBC, Shahbaz Taseer immediately after his father’s murder shunned violence and expressed his family’s desire to live in Pakistan. A peaceful, soft-spoken young man is a target of the abductors whose identity thus far is not known. There have been speculations of all sorts but nothing can be stated with confidence. However, the abductors have sent a powerful message to Pakistanis: there are groups stronger than the state that can pick up high-profile targets at will.
Last February the son-in-law of the former Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee (CJCSC), General Tariq Majid was also kidnapped and thus far he has not been recovered. Media reports suggest that a sectarian outfit affiliated with the Taliban is responsible for the abduction and have asked for a hefty ransom amount in addition to the release of hundreds of militants. The question that comes to mind is that if a top military commander’s family is not safe then how can the bloody civilians feel safe in the nuclear-armed fortress of Islam?
Civilian men in charge of the country — the prime minister and the Punjab chief minister have assured the Taseer family that Shahbaz Taseer will be recovered soon. The chief minister has shown extraordinary interest in this case and the negative statements from the PPP side are quite unfortunate since this is not the time for political bickering.
It has been extremely disappointing to note that there are many in Pakistan who are quick to indulge in hate-mongering. On Twitter and other interactive web forums (as well as sections of Urdu Press), nasty comments on the abductions from Lahore have been made.
Needless to say that the missing Baloch and scores of other Pakistanis who have been taken away by state agencies or the militants require immediate attention of the government. Pakistan’s apparent state of free fall has to be arrested. Shahbaz Taseer is an innocent young man who must be recovered soon and the criminal gangs operating with apparent impunity should be tackled with an iron hand.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 31st, 2011.