Shahbaz Taseer escaped just five months ago and traveled from Pakistan to share his experience at the 9th Annual MDF Aspen Reception hosted at the beautiful home of Kate & Chris Roberts on July 26. His father, the late Governor of Punjab Salman Taseer, was brutally assassinated by his own bodyguard nearly six years ago due to his progressive stance on minority rights. Shahbaz was kidnapped six months after and held in captivity for nearly five years. With growing factionalization of the Taliban, there has been a rise in kidnapping as a means to fund extremist activities.
Shahbaz was captured originally by Uzbek militants who demanded an unrealistic sum and an exchange of 25 prisoners. After two years of torture to no avail, the Uzbek militants sided with ISIS and as a result ended up at war with the Afghani Taliban. During the violence Shahbaz attempted to flee, but was found and taken as a hostage. The Afghani Taliban believed him to be Uzbek and kept him thereafter in an Afghan Taliban prison. Shahbaz had to create a false identify to survive amongst his cell mates, but successfully convinced his main captor of his true identity who was instrumental in assisting his escape. Shahbaz attributes his survival to his faith, his father, and the desire to return to his loving family. When asked how he is coping, he says sharing his story helps and although he is still getting used to figuring out how to use his smart phone, he’s been enjoying eating real food again. As for thoughts on how to address the spread of extremism…he does not believe there is any room for talk or negotiation, that violence may be the only answer. His is quick to state that regardless, there is hope for a future generation, but addressing poverty and conflict has to start with quality and free education for the most vulnerable so that they can choose peace and prosperity over violence and despair.