Gunmen abducted the son of a liberal Pakistani politician who was murdered by an Islamist extremist earlier this year, police said Friday. The victim's brother said he suspected extremists were behind the kidnapping.
Shahbaz Taseer was taken from his car in the city of Lahore Friday, said police officer Abdur Razzaq Cheema. Shaheryar Taseer, Shahbaz's brother, said the family had been receiving threats from militants.
"It seems they are behind it," he said.
Their father, Punjab governor Salman Taseer, was gunned down by one of his guards in January. The guard confessed and said he carried out the killing because of Taseer's opposition to laws that carry the death penalty for blaspheming Islam. Members of the Taseer family have continued to speak out against extremism since Salman Taseer's death.
Pakistani TV showed Shahbaz Taseer's luxury car abandoned in the road of an upmarket Lahore district.
Punjab Governor Latif Khosa said the kidnappers were riding motorbikes and a jeep. "Many people saw the kidnappers," he said. "They were not wearing masks."
The government had provided guards to Taseer's family, including to Shahbaz, but on Friday he was traveling in his private car without security, said Punjab law minister Rana Sanaullah.
It was the second prominent kidnapping in Lahore in less than two weeks. On Aug. 15, gunmen seized a 70-year-old American aid expert from his house. The man, Warren Weinstein, is still missing, and police have declined to speculate on who may be holding him.
The death of Salman Taseer, and the fact that many Pakistanis did not loudly condemn it, was taken a sign that the country was buckling under intolerance and extremism. Pakistan's wealthy liberal elite were particularly alarmed, sensing their lifestyle was threatened like never before.
"This family has suffered too much already, and given the security threats directed toward them in the aftermath of Governor Taseer's death this kidnapping underscores the failing writ of the state and its inability to provide security even to those known to be at high risk," said Human Rights Watch in a statement.
Islamist extremists behind more than four years of near daily violence in Pakistan have kidnapped scores of people, often exchanging them for ransom or using them as bargaining chips to try and get the release of imprisoned militants. Criminal gangs are also heavily involved in kidnapping.