Shahbaz Taseer, son of former Punjab governor Salmaan Taseer who was assassinated in 2011 for his opposition to blasphemy law, spoke to Zeinab Badawi in BBC World’s HardTalk programme about his release from Taliban’s captivity of five years during which he endured constant torture. They discussed whether the vision of a tolerant and secular Pakistan has been lost? Q: You were held captive for five years, what were your reflections? Just in the position that I was in, the day I was released, I didn’t think it would happen in February 2016. But I never gave up. I was released on February 29, but it took me eight days to reach home in Pakistan. Q: How did you feel when you came back home? I say this. I was very happy. There are no words. Something you prayed for, something that you crawled back to. When I saw my mother, my wife and family, it was like I got this another life. Q: Your father was assassinated in 2010 for speaking about the blasphemy law and you were given security after that. How come you still got kidnapped despite all that security? I was provided security guards, but I could never imagine that the danger was this serious. I just wanted to live a normal life and live like a normal man. We always had security, but we never took advantage of these privileges even when my father was the governor. We knew that his life was in danger because of the stance that he took, but we never thought that we needed that sort of protection too. Q: Don’t you think it was naïve of you to not maintain security then? In Pakistan, many people take stands on various issues that put them on the front line of danger. And my father was killed by his own security guard. Then the question becomes: who is going to guard the guard? If it’s a question about naivety then: wouldn’t you be naïve if you don’t leave the country altogether. So I don’t think it was naïve. I am a Pakistani and I just wanted to live like a normal Pakistani. Q: Was it lack of preparation then, if not naivety? You can’t prepare for events like this. All these people who died in attacks in Nice and Paris in France, do you think they were lacking preparation? No one can prepare for this sort of thing. Being prepared for accidents isn’t my ideology and it can’t be anyone’s ideology because it’s not something you can expect. Q: You were kidnapped in Pakistan but released in Afghanistan? The Pakistan Army is conducting a large scale security operation against such militants and therefore I had to be moved to Afghanistan to be kept in captivity. Same thing happened with Ali Gilani, son of former prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani. And the young boy who was recently kidnapped, named (Barrister) Awais Shah, he could not be shifted to Afghanistan because of the same reason. It is his luck. Q: The killer of your father was hanged. Do you think that justice was served? It is not justice for me. I want my father back. That is justice to me. Q: Many people attended the funeral of Mumtaz Qadri, do you think there are many people who support him? About two hundred thousand people attended his funeral and to me that is not significant number in a country with 200 million people. And I also believe that there is a silent majority who condemn wrongs in the society but do not come forward to speak about it. That’s why only few who are in the wrong come into light and claim to represent everyone, whereas in reality a majority of people in Pakistan do not support such elements. Q: Many people also mourned your father’s death. So there is support for him too? Many people mourned him. I saw hundreds of thousands people mourning his death. Q: How did it feel to be held a hostage? Did you suffer torture? How does it feel when someone comes one day and takes away everything? I just thought that this isn’t the life that I chose to live, to live as someone’s – I don’t want to use the word slave – but as captive. That’s how they treated me. They treated me like an animal not as a human being. Q: What sort of torture did they inflict on you? They tied me up and fed me only once a day. I was tortured from very early on in my captivity. And every time they raised a hand to beat me or to torture me, I drew lines. I’m sure that you’ve seen videos of what ISIS does. They just wanted a reaction out of torturing me, from my mother and from the government (of Pakistan). They pulled my nails out and made the torture as extravagant as they could. Sometimes, they brought new people to torture me and sometimes they hung me upside down from the ceiling. Their ransom demands were ridiculous. All they actually wanted was a reaction. Q: What did they demand? They demanded a ransom which was ridiculously high. They wanted $30-40 million and wanted about 25 people (militants) released which nobody knew about. Q: What was your family’s response? My family doesn’t have that sort of money. And no one knows anything about the people they were demanding to be released. The only one of them that we could do anything about was the man who killed my father and my mother was willing to talk to the government and drop all charges, she just said, “I want my son back.” Q: How did your release come about? When I was in Afghanistan, I was in jail with the other people including Uzbeks. I told the Afghan Taliban that I wasn’t one of the militants that they had captured and I couldn’t give them anything either, not the men, not the money. I said I have a family and I just want to go back to them. They realised that I was not one of militants and then they had no reason to keep me in captivity. The Afghan Taliban didn’t believe in kidnapping. So after they realised that there were two choices, either they would have kept me there and when those Uzbeks were released – they were going to get released eventually – they would kill me, or they could just let me go, so they just let me go. Q: The founder of Pakistan Mohammad Ali Jinnah said, “You are free; you are free to go to your temples. You are free to go to your mosques or to any other places of worship in this State of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion, caste or creed – that has nothing to do with the business of the state.” How much do you agree to it? This is the vision on which Pakistan was formed. My father died fighting for it. It is also the foundation of Islam, you cannot force anyone to become Muslim. Almighty Allah says to Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) in Quran, “You are the messenger” so it’s God’s work to create place in one’s heart for Islam, it’s not a human’s task. Q: Your father supported a Christian woman who was convicted of blasphemy by a court, receiving a sentence of death by hanging and your father spoke in her support? She was alleged to have committed blasphemy. My father always stood for the weak. I remember he told me a few days before he died that nations are known for taking stands for the weak and not for leaning on the strong. He said that any law which endangers the security of the Pakistani nationals and does not safeguard them needs to be removed and amended. Even the Ulema (religious leaders) in Pakistan agree to that, so it is absurd to not speak about the changes needed to such laws. Q: How do you explain Pakistan that condemns such atrocity and Pakistan that tried to kill Malala Yousafzai just because she wanted education? She calls herself a feminist. Do you think there is any support for her too? This is the same Pakistan. Even in my case, there are different opinions. I received messages on my social media, denying that I was even kidnapped. Someone said to me “you weren’t tortured.” Imagine the torture that my mother had to endure sitting through hours of the videos watching her son getting mutilated and knowing that while she was watching this one, another one was being made. But there are people on the other side too. Malala has a lot of support in Pakistan. I support her too, she is doing great work. Q: Which of the two sides do you think is more prominent? The side that speaks up. The majority of the people stay silent, they don’t agree to extremism but out of fear or otherwise, they stay silent. And I firmly believe that as long as that majority will stay silent and won’t voice their opinion, the minority will continue to remain in sight and paint an impression which by no means represents the entire nation. There is an intelligent lot in Pakistan and will never say that someone chose to die just because he or she chose to live their life in their own way.