- Afghan Taliban deny ‘rescuing’ Shahbaz Taseer, say have never had young man in their custody
- Report presented to Interior Minister Nisar says Taseer was set free by captors, not clear if ransom was paid by family
The Afghan Taliban rejected on Saturday reports that they had rescued Shahbaz Taseer, son of slain governor Punjab Salmaan Taseer, in an operation against Uzbek militants in Afghanistan.
A section of the Pakistani media had reported that the Taliban had recovered Shahbaz, who was kidnapped from Lahore in 2011, in Zabul province, where he had been held hostage by the Uzbek militants.
“We are unaware of the incident. Our Mujahideen had never been involved in it. We had neither held him (Shahbaz Taseer) nor recovered him,” Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid said.
When asked about reports that the Taliban have issued a statement confirming the rumours, Mujahid said, “This is baseless. We have not issued any statement as the issue does not relate to us and no question arises to comment on it,” he said.
The Taliban denial coincided with the issuance of an Interior Ministry report which said Shahbaz had not been rescued through any security operation.
“The facts and evidence show that Shahbaz Taseer has not been recovered through any operation but the captors set him free on their own,” said the report presented to the interior minister on Saturday.
The Interior Ministry’s statement said that it is premature to suggest if Shahbaz was released after paying ransom.
“No institution has the right to take credit of the recovery,” the ministry said.
The ministry has also suggested giving a warning to the concerned officers who had earlier informed the minister that Taseer had been rescued through an operation.
Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali had ordered a high-level committee for the investigation into the incident under special secretary.
TASEER RESCUED BY AFGHAN TALIBAN:
On Saturday, a report in the local press had claimed that Shahbaz Taseer was brought by the Afghan Taliban members on a motorbike through unfrequented routes from Afghanistan before being set free in the Kuchlak town near Quetta on March 8.
According to the report, Taseer spent about four months in the custody of the Afghan Taliban in Afghanistan’s Zabul province. It said he was seized by the Taliban fighters in November, 2015 after killing, injuring and capturing his Uzbek captors, who belonged to the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU).
However the report claimed that Taseer wasn’t freed at the time as the Taliban commanders who had taken him into custody weren’t sure about his identity. They believed he was an Uzbek because he was seized along with a group of Uzbek militants. At one stage, Shahbaz Taseer told his Taliban captors that he was a British national with a British grandmother who was kidnapped by the Uzbeks, the report claimed.
According to the report, while holding Shahbaz Taseer first in Danday Darpakhel village near Miranshah in North Waziristan and later in the Shawal valley to escape the military’s Zarb-e-Azb operation undertaken in June 2014, the IMU had initially demanded Rs 4 billion as ransom and release of 22 Afghan and Pakistani militants, including Salmaan Taseer’s killer Mumtaz Qadri. Later, it reduced its ransom demand to Rs 3 billion and the release of six militants held by the Pakistan government.
The Uzbeks’ defeat at the hands of Taliban destroyed the IMU in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region as its leader Usman Ghazi was captured and killed along with one of his top commanders, Akram, and scores of fighters.
According to the report, once the Afghan Taliban were convinced that Shahbaz Taseer wasn’t an Uzbek, their commanders including Mulla Matiullah who at the time was the ‘shadow’ governor for Zabul, Pir Agha and Mulla Muhammad Alam, decided to release him. It said that one day Taseer was given some money and sent with a group of Taliban fighters heading towards Pakistan on motorcycles. As they had to drive through deserted and unfrequented routes to avoid roadside security checkpoints manned by Afghan soldiers and cops, the journey took more than a week. It ended in the windy Kuchlak town where Shahbaz Taseer became a free man again.