ISLAMABAD - Pakistan's interior minister on Thursday ordered a probe into circumstances surrounding the release from captivity of the son of a slain governor after claims that a $10 ransom had been paid for his life.
Initial reports said a joint Pakistani special forces' operation rescued 33-year-old Shahbaz Taseer who was held for five years by Islamic militants. Taseer was found on Tuesday in a hotel room in the town of Kuchlak near Quetta, the Baluchistan provincial capital. But after the rescue, reports surfaced that nearly $10 million had been paid for his life.
The Pakistani paramilitary Frontier Corps, which took part in the operation, later said Taseer was safe and well and that he will be taken to the city of Lahore to be reunited with his family.
On Thursday, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan ordered the probe, saying “the facts are different,” without elaborating.
Taseer is the son of late governor Salman Taseer, who was assassinated by his guard in 2011 over accusations of blasphemy. He was abducted in Lahore, just eight months after his father's killing. The guard behind the assassination, Mumtaz Qadri, was convicted and hanged last week.
Khan's announcement came after several Pakistani TV stations aired an interview with a restaurant owner in Kuchlak about the day of Taseer's rescue.
The restaurant owner, Mohammad Saleem, said a man in dirty clothes with overgrown hair and a beard walked in, ate at his establishment, then asked for phone and made a call.
Less than an hour later, Saleem said, a Pakistani military convoy arrived, blind-folded the guest and bundled him off in one of the vehicles. Saleem said he only recognized Taseer only after TV reports about the rescue.
The account fueled speculation about a ransom payment, though it was never clear which militant group abducted and held Taseer. Pakistani media reported that the ransom had been paid but there was no official confirmation.
The Afghan Taliban leadership is believed to reside in the area where Taseer was found, though Baluchistan - which shares a border with Afghanistan - has its own, low-level insurgency waged by Baloch separatist groups demanding a greater share of the region's natural resources or outright independence.