Islamist militants 'pulled out fingernails, shot leg'

Mr Taseer at a house in Quetta. He was kidnapped in 2011 by Uzbek radicals and later held in an Afghan Taleban jail.
Mr Taseer at a house in Quetta. He was kidnapped in 2011 by Uzbek radicals and later held in an Afghan Taleban jail.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

ISLAMABAD • The son of an assassinated Pakistani governor who was released more than four years after his kidnapping by Islamist militants said the Quran, memories of his family and hearing Manchester United football games on an illicit radio helped him survive.

In his first personal account, published on Tuesday, Mr Shahbaz Taseer, who is in his early 30s, described torture, illness and drone strikes during his time in captivity.

He was abducted from his hometown Lahore in 2011, months after his father, Mr Salman Taseer, then governor of Punjab province, was killed by his own bodyguard over perceived blasphemy.

He was released outside the south-western city of Quetta on March 8. Few details of how he was freed have been made public, nor of whether a ransom was paid.

Mr Taseer said he was held by militants from the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan in Pakistan's lawless tribal areas and later in a jail run by the Afghan Taleban across the border.

"They (Uzbek militants) found perverse pleasure in torturing me," he wrote in The Daily Times, owned by his family. "But I clung to my faith and the Quran, the memory of my courageous father and the love of my family."

He also told CNN about his ordeal. "I was tortured for about a year in these extravagant Hollywood-style movies they would make for my family to put pressure on them, pressure on the government.

"For example, they pulled my fingernails out... They would carve my back open with blades and throw salt. They sewed my mouth shut and starved me for a week. They shot me in my leg. They cut flesh off my back."

In the weeks since his return, Mr Taseer's humour has won him many admirers on social media.

Asked by a follower whether he was asked to formally join the Taleban, he said: "No, they didn't like my sense of style." He wrote: "Looking back, I can see that I was always free. No one can imprison you except yourself."

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 19, 2016, with the headline 'Islamist militants 'pulled out fingernails, shot leg''. Print Edition | Subscribe