Quetta/LAHORE - The kidnapped son of former Punjab governor Salmaan Taseer, was freed on Tuesday, a week after his father’s assassin was executed.

Shahbaz Taseer was recovered from Kuchlak, a town 25 kilometres north of Quetta, in a joint operation of intelligence agencies and Frontier Constabulary, as stated by sources.

Shahbaz Taseer is “hale and hearty”, military spokesman Asim Baja said, tweeting two images of the bearded and smiling son of Salmaan Taseer that he said were taken in Quetta late Tuesday.

Shahbaz Taseer was kidnapped near his office situated in Gulberg, Lahore on August 26, 2011. Security services said Shahbaz was abducted by outlawed Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and handed to Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan. He was taken months after his father was murdered.

Security officials stationed in Balochistan close to the Shahbaz Taseer development told The Nation the raid was carried out following intelligence information about the presence of some TTP-linked militants in the backrooms of a Kuchlak restaurant.

The raid was led by a key intelligence service of the military, Frontier Constabulary Intelligence Unit (FCIU) and strike force of the constabulary. As a result they found Shahbaz Taseer and there was no other person in the restaurant’s compound. 

He was shifted to a safe house in Quetta Cantonment. Though he was in stable condition but the security agencies had called doctors to examine him. He was allowed to talk with his mother and wife after his recovery, said the security officials.

The Counter Terrorism Department Balochistan was taken on board later for supplementary assistance, they added.

Additional CTD Balochistan IG Aitzaz Goraya claimed his agency and intelligence agencies conducted a joint raid in which the person identified as Shahbaz Taseer was recovered.

The Pakistani Taliban have never officially confirmed their involvement in the kidnapping, but a militant source told AFP Tuesday that an army operation in the tribal areas had made it “difficult” for the group to keep him.

“That’s why they preferred to set him free,” the source said.

Militant commanders have privately told AFP in the past Taseer was being kept somewhere in the tribal areas of North and South Waziristan.

The source said Taseer was moved after Operation Zarb-e-Azb was launched.

“Acting on a tip-off, intelligence forces and police went to a compound in the Kuchlak and recovered Shahbaz Taseer,” said Aitzaz Goraya, head of the Balochistan CTD, who described Taseer as being in “feeble” health.

“We surrounded the compound and we raided it. We didn’t find anyone. A single person was there and he told us my name is Shahbaz and my father’s name is Salmaan Taseer.”

But the owner of a roadside restaurant in Kuchlak told reporters that Taseer was recovered after he came to his restaurant on foot on Tuesday evening, made a phone call and then personnel from the Frontier Corps came and picked him up.

“He had grown long hair with a scruffy beard and was frantically asking for a telephone or mobile phone,” the owner of Al-Saleem hotel told reporters in Kuchlak.

“He ate food here, paid a bill of 350 rupees and then called someone from a waiter’s mobile,” the owner said, adding that minutes later Frontier Corps personnel arrived.

A second militant source said the Taliban had been demanding up to two billion rupees for Taseer’s release.

Kuchlak is nearly 100 kilometers away from Pak-Afghan border and on the other side Afghan province of Kandahar which is being used for terror activities in Pakistan.

“Shahbaz was recovered in stable condition,” Balochistan IGP Ahsan Mehboob told the media. Intelligence agencies and CTD found Shahbaz Taseer after receiving information he was at a hotel in Kuchlak. No arrests were made in the raid and there was no confrontation with the captors, he added.

In 2011, his abductors used a Prado jeep and a motorcycle rolled the young Taseer into the four-wheeler and rushed away unimpeded, said the eyewitnesses.

Though there was no confirmation of ransom being paid to the abductors of Shahbaz Taseer.

Mumtaz Qadri, the police bodyguard who shot Governor Salmaan Taseer 28 times in Islamabad in 2011, was hanged last week in a move analysts said demonstrated the state’s willingness to uphold the rule of law against extremism.

Shahbaz Taseer’s brother Shehryar said on Twitter last week the hanging was a victory for Pakistan, but not his family. “The safe return of my brother is the only victory my family wants,” he wrote.

Shahbaz Taseer’s father-in-law Salman Ghani also confirmed his freedom to AFP.

Former prime minister Yousaf Raza Gilani, who belonged to the same Pakistan People’s Party as Salman Taseer and whose own son was kidnapped by suspected Taliban militants in May 2013, told a private TV channel: “It is a very big day for Salmaan’s family.”

He added: “After this release, I am very hopeful that my own son will be freed.”