By Xavier P. William, BosNewsLife Special Correspondent reporting from Pakistan
ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN (BosNewsLife)– Church leaders and activists say the kidnapping of the son of an assassinated governor has added to a sense of insecurity among minority Christians in Pakistan’s Punjab province.
Shahbaz Taseer was taken from his car by armed men two weeks ago in the provincial capital Lahore. His father, Punjab governor Salman Taseer, was killed in January by an Islamist militant.
The killer reportedly confessed after being arrested, saying he murdered Taseer because of his opposition to laws that carry the death penalty for blaspheming Islam. Christians across the country have been detained and harassed by Islamic extremists and authorities because of the legislation, church groups say.
“The religious minorities have [already] been feeling insecure after the assassination of Salman Taseer and [Christian federal minister] Shahbaz Bhatti,” said Catholic priest Xavier Francis. “This abduction has increased the fears of the minorities,”he told BosNewsLife.
“The Punjab Government must arrest the culprits and ensure the safe return [of Salman Taseer] or else we will start country-wide protests against the Punjab Government,” he said.
“The Punjab government has failed in securing the people’s lives and property across the province,” added provincial legislator Pervaiz Rafique, who led a similar rally in Punjab’s city of Faisalabad.
“The assassination of Salman Taseer and later abduction of his son is a conspiracy. The government is responsible for the incidents of abduction… Murder, robbery, theft, extortion as well as terrorist activities are order of the day in the province,” Rafique added.
There was no immediate reaction from Punjab officials.
However Pakistan’s government made clear Friday, September 9, it was concerned about reports that the Taliban group is plotting to secure the freedom of Osama bin Laden’s wives and children by kidnapping a high-ranking government official.
Interior Minister Rehman Malik cautioned there was not yet evidence that the group had seized Taseer from the streets of Lahore in hope to exchange him for the slain terror chief’s family members.
Special American forces killed bin Laden in a May helicopter-borne raid on his house in northwestern Pakistan.
They took the corpse with them, but left at least two of his wives and several children in the house, who were later detained by Pakistani authorities. (With additional reporting by BosNewsLife’s Stefan J. Bos).