Policemen inspect the car that Shahbaz Taseer was driving when he was abducted in Lahore.Shahbaz Taseer, the billionaire son of slain Punjab governor Salman Taseer noticed the black Landcruiser and motorcycle shadowing him around 10 a.m. on August 26. By then, it was too late. Four unidentified men dragged the,Policemen inspect the car that Shahbaz Taseer was driving when he was abducted in Lahore.Shahbaz Taseer, the billionaire son of slain Punjab governor Salman Taseer noticed the black Landcruiser and motorcycle shadowing him around 10 a.m. on August 26. By then, it was too late. Four unidentified men dragged the 28-year-old out of his shiny two-seater Mercedes sports car in Lahore’s posh Gulberg area and bundled him into their vehicle. They tossed his laptop and mobile phones back into the Mercedes roadster before driving away.Police said Shahbaz was driving to his office in Gulberg without his usual police escort. A Taseer family driver later spotted the Mercedes parked in the middle of the road, doors ajar. No group claimed responsibility for the sensational kidnapping and no ransom call was made. A high-ranking law enforcement official told India Today on condition of anonymity that Shahbaz was kidnapped by intelligence agencies as they “doubted his loyalty” to the nation. The agencies have, in the past, illegally detained people on mere suspicion.Shahbaz Taseer was kidnapped on August 26Kidnapping for ransom has now spilled over from Karachi, Peshawar and the lawless tribal areas of Pakistan, to enter Lahore. Children, tourists and middle or upper class Pakistanis and businessmen are common targets for ransom that range from Pakistani Rs 20 lakh to Rs 10 crore.Shahbaz’s is the third high-profile kidnapping in the past two months. A Swiss couple, Divid Oliver Och and Daniela Widmer, were abducted from their camping van in Quetta on July 1, allegedly by gunmen belonging to the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). An American aid official, Warren Weinstein, 70, was also kidnapped from his Lahore home by six assailants on August 13. No ransom calls were made in any of these cases. This has led to speculation of political motives behind the kidnapping.advertisement”The agencies abducted more than a hundred innocent people during the Pervez Musharraf era and the practice continues,” says Amna Janjua, chairman of an NGO, Defence of Human Rights. Janjua’s husband, Masood Janjua, an educationist, went missing in May 2005. Janjua claims he has been detained by security agencies.Swiss couple Daniela Widmer and Dividoliveroch were abducted from their camping van in Quetta on July 1.However, the Federal Investigation Agency and police have claimed that they have arrested a dozen suspects and are pursuing investigations into the Shahbaz kidnapping. Some theories linked the abduction to extremists who are seeking the release of Shahbaz’s father’s assassin, Malik Mumtaz Qadri, now lodged in Adyala jail in Rawalpindi. Shahbaz was a vocal critic of Pakistan’s harsh anti-blasphemy laws. An official of Pakistan’s Investigation Bureau said three of the arrested suspects belong to the banned Jamaat-ud-Dawa group, a charity arm of the Lashkar-e-Toiba, and frequently visited Qadri in prison.”Shahbaz’s kidnapping is an eye-opener. Where are the government, law enforcement agencies and intelligence agencies?” said a member of the Taseer family on condition of anonymity. “The government has failed to safeguard the lives and property of people,” she added.Shahbaz took over as the director of the family’s businesses, founded by his father, following the latter’s assasination on January 4. They include real estate firm Pace Pakistan, brokerage firms First Capital Equities and First Capital Securities Corporation, as well as Media Times that controls the leading English newspaper Daily Times, Urdu Daily AajKal, kids channel Wikkid Plus and satellite channel Business Plus. He and his wife Maheen Ghani were offloaded from a New York-bound flight at San Francisco on August 19 last year when a hoax caller said they were potential hijackers. The couple filed a lawsuit against the airline in March this year.The kidnapping of the scion has sent a wave of fear and anger across the country, particularly in the ruling PPP, of which Salman Taseer was a member. Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani contacted Shahbaz’s mother and assured her of the government’s support. He directed the Punjab police chief to take all measures to find the missing billionaire. President Asif Ali Zardari also telephoned Shahbaz’s mother and assured her that efforts would be made to find her son. A hurried meeting called by the Chief Minister of Punjab province, Shahbaz Sharif, was attended by the chief secretary, home secretary and inspector general of police. Police have apprehended two suspects who were allegedly shadowing Shahbaz.The case has clearly embarrassed the Punjab provincial police. Chief City Police Officer of Lahore, Malik Ahmed Raza, denied police negligence. He said Shahbaz did not use his security cordon of 17 policemen. Provincial law minister Rana Sanaullah blamed Shahbaz for leaving his security detail at home.advertisementThe Crime Investigation Branch says that 47 people were kidnapped for ransom last year. Thirteen people were kidnapped in the first three months of 2011. The principal suspects are militant groups who kidnap high value targets, such as businessmen, and use the ransom to purchase arms and ammunition from Afghanistan and Iran.
Tobacco will soon be a thing of the past in the land of wrestlers. In a first, the mahapanchayat in Noida’s Sarfabad village has vowed to eliminate tobacco and its products in a bid to secure a healthier future for its youth.The panchayat has asked the village residents to abstain from selling or using tobacco. Such products would be a strict no-no for the younger generation henceforth.Initiated by the wrestlers-dominated community of the village, the move is aimed at urging the state government to impose a blanket ban on the use of tobacco products. The plan will act as a pilot project and subsequently spread to other rural pockets of the district.The panchayat has given its final word on the social menace and anybody found violating the same will have to pay dearly.Shopkeepers of Sarfabad village set fire to their tobacco products to show their support.Over 20 shopkeepers in the village brought their tobacco products and destroyed them in a bonfire to express support for the move.According to Sukhbir Pehelwan, a wrestling coach and organiser, the panchayat has completely banned tobacco and its use in the village.”Anybody found selling tobacco or its products would have to shell out Rs 1,000 as fine. Whoever is found chewing tobacco will be fined Rs 500. And we have decided to reward any person who informs us about anyone selling or using tobacco with Rs 100. The fines will be realised by the panchayat itself,” Pehelwan said.”If other states such as Haryana and Gujarat can ban it, why can’t Uttar Pradesh? A health recent ministry report has disclosed rising number of cancers in the country are caused by tobacco use. It has not only become a health hazard but a social evil. We aim to eliminate it completely,” he said.advertisementThe members of the panchayat would, on Monday morning, hand over a memorandum to district magistrate MKS Sundaram, addressed to the state government urging it to impose the ban at the earliest.”We have thought to make Sarfabad a model village in eradicating the use of tobacco in the state. We would soon begin awareness programmes in other villages too. We have given time to the government till August 30. If it does not do anything about it, we would turn this campaign into a movement,” Subodh Yadav, an international wrestler and 2011 Asiad gold-medalist said.Five villages in Noida – Sarfabad, Sorkha, Garhi Chowkhandi and Behlolpur have practised wrestling as a traditional sport and have produced numerous state, national and international players. Sarfabad, with a population of around 10,000, has over 150 professional wrestlers, practising the sport at various forums. Of them, three have wrestled on the international level while around 50 have participated in national events.Though the panchayat has started the campaign against tobacco, it would soon add alcohol to the list to prevent the younger generation of the village from falling prey to wrong practices which can only harm their health, a panchayat member said.