Pakistani police stand next to the car of Shahbaz Taseer, who was abducted… (Arif Ali, AFP/Getty Images )
Reporting from Islamabad, Pakistan — Gunmen on Friday kidnapped the son of a liberal provincial governor assassinated this year in retaliation for his opposition to Pakistan's blasphemy law.
The abduction of Salman Taseer's son Shahbaz in the eastern city of Lahore raised concern that Islamic extremists were intent on targeting members of the Taseer family, some of whom have continued to speak out against intolerance in Pakistani society after the Punjab province governor's slaying Jan. 4.
Bodyguard Malik Mumtaz Hussain Qadri told police he killed the governor because of his stance against the blasphemy statute, which makes it a makes it a crime to insult the prophet Muhammad, the Koran or Islam and can be result in execution. Qadri is awaiting trial.
Western leaders and analysts were particularly dismayed by the reaction to the assassination. Many Pakistanis showered Qadri with praise and called him a hero, exposing the degree of support that Islamist extremists enjoy within Pakistan. Two months after Taseer's killing, Pakistan's minority affairs minister, a Christian, was assassinated in an attack believed tied to his opposition to the blasphemy law.
Police say Shahbaz Taseer, 28, was heading to his office when four men on motorcycles pulled up to his silver Mercedes and forced him out at gunpoint. They pushed him into a waiting vehicle and sped away, police said.
Authorities say they have no suspects and that the Taseer family has not received a ransom demand.
The provincial government had assigned a security team to the younger Taseer, but no guards were with him when the abduction occurred, police said.
Rana Sanaullah, Punjab's law minister, suggested that Islamic militants may have been behind Taseer's kidnapping.
"This is a very distressing incident," Sanaullah told reporters in Lahore. "Involvement of terrorist organizations in abduction incidents is getting grave across the country."
Ali Dayan Hasan, South Asia researcher for Human Rights Watch, urged Pakistani authorities to move quickly to rescue Taseer.
"This family has suffered too much already, and given the security threats directed toward them in the aftermath of Gov. Taseer's death, this kidnapping underscores the failing writ of the state and its inability to provide security even to those known to be at high risk," Hasan said in a statement.
Taseer's abduction follows the Aug. 13 kidnapping of U.S. development expert Warren Weinstein from his house in Lahore. On Thursday, police raided a house in the central Pakistani town of Khushab where they believed Weinstein was being held, but the kidnappers had fled with the American before police arrived, Lahore authorities said.
Weinstein was seized two days before he was scheduled to move back to the United States after living in Pakistan for seven years. He is Pakistan country director for J.E. Austin Associates, a consulting firm for development projects in Pakistan and other countries.
Police have arrested three people they believe are linked to a gang that kidnapped Weinstein.
Special correspondent Nasir Khan in Islamabad contributed to this report.