'They sewed my mouth shut and pulled my finger nails out'

Shahbaz Taseer, son of slain Pak governor, recounts tales of horror from the last five years when Uzbek militants were holding him captive

Islamabad: Shahbaz Taseer, the son of Pakistan’s slain governor of Punjab province Salmaan Taseer, has given a chilling account of brutal torture during his half a decade-long captivity by ruthless Uzbek militants who flogged him, cut off his flesh and pulled out his nails.

Shahbaz returned home a week after his father’s killer was hanged. File pic
Shahbaz returned home a week after his father’s killer was hanged. File pic

The horrific ordeal was narrated by Shahbaz himself in his first interviews after he recently returned home in March from the clutches of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) and later the Afghan Taliban.

Torture stories
“They used to flog me. I was flogged about 500 times in three days, then they cut my back with blades and removed nails from my hands and feet,” the 33-year-old said while talking about his captivity by the IMU, an outfit long associated with Al-Qaeda blamed for high-profile terror attacks in Pakistan, including the 2014 storming of Karachi airport.

He said he was not given food for days and was not provided medical treatment even while he was suffering from malaria. Once the captors also stitched his mouth. “They used to torture me for making films and used to tell me their plans in advance. Like they would tell me that they will remove my nails tomorrow. I used to pray the whole night,” Shahbaz said.

He added, “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. I bled for seven days and they wouldn’t give me any help for seven days.”

Uzbeks attacked
He also said that differences cropped up between IMU — whom he described as known in militant circles for being “ruthless, merciless and the best fighters” — and Taliban over the issue of allegiance with the Islamic State (ISIS) group.

“Following the dispute, Afghan Taliban attacked the Uzbeks and eliminated their whole group — their leadership. For three days, only death lived there,” he said.

Shahbaz said his new captors, the Taliban were not interested in a ransom but instead “sentenced” him to further jail time, before he “met someone there who helped release me.” He said he had been jailed for two years, but his fortunes took an unexpected turn when he was freed by a Taliban member. “It’s insane you can find humanity where there is none,” he said.

Terror tour
>> In captivity: Shahbaz, who was abducted in 2011 from his hometown Lahore, said he was initially kept in Mirali area of North Waziristan and then moved to Dattakhel area of same district. Later, he was moved to Afghanistan by Taliban who imprisoned him in their jail.

>> Shahbaz, after being released from militants’ clutches, trekked from the Afghan province of Uruzgan to the outskirts of Pakistan town of Kuchlak in Quetta, where he was able to call up his mother following which he was recovered by security forces.

Five years back...
Shahbaz’s abduction in 2011 came seven months after his father Salmaan Taseer was killed by his police guard Mumtaz Qadri, for seeking reforms in controversial blasphemy laws. Just 10 days before Shahbaz was recovered, Qadri was hanged on February 29, 2016 at Adiala Jail, Rawalpindi after President Mamnoon Hussain rejected his mercy plea.

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