Talks with kidnappers of Shahbaz Taseer at advanced stage

After months in captivity, the family of kidnapped Shahbaz Taseer, the son of the slain Pakistani politician Salmaan Taseer, has said that negotiations with the abductors are at an advanced stage and the family believes he will be freed soon.

"We are very optimistic that Shahbaz will return safely. Negotiations are underway with his captors and we are positive that he will be with us very soon," said Shaharyar Taseer, the younger brother of Shahbaz.

Shahbaz was kidnapped from Gulberg area of Lahore in August 2011, some seven months after his father Salmaan, was gunned down by police guard Mumtaz Qadri in Islamabad.

Salmaan, a senior leader of the Pakistan People's Party, was the Governor of Punjab at the time. The Governor's assassin had links with extremists.

Qadri's supporters and elements in the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan are suspected of being behind the kidnapping of Shahbaz.

Earlier, some government officials had claimed that Shahbaz's captors were demanding the release of Qadri and a huge sum as ransom. Shahbaz is reportedly being held in the lawless tribal belt bordering Afghanistan.

Qadri tried to justify the Governor's murder by saying that he killed Salmaan for opposing the harsh blasphemy laws and for supporting Aasia Bibi, a Christian woman convicted for alleged blasphemy.

Yesterday, several vigils were organised in Lahore and Islamabad to mark the second death anniversary of Salmaan.

"My father was an elephant and his assassin was an ant. The hanging of the ant will give victory to Pakistan but not to me and my family as our elephant will not return," Shaharyar Taseer said.

"Two years have passed but the family has not come to terms with the loss of our loved one. We are sad but we will fight till the end. Despite threats to us, we will not leave Pakistan. I do not know how long I have to live but, like my father, I will not give in to any threat and continue his mission. My father was a brave man and he is alive in our hearts," he said.

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