Return to Transcripts main page
The Story of Shahbaz Taseer; One Woman versus HIV/AIDS; Imagine a World. Aired 2-2:30p ET
Aired May 16, 2016 - 14:00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST (voice-over): Tonight: the extraordinary story of Shahbaz Taseer, son of a murdered Pakistani governor. He was
kidnapped and tortured for years and now he's free and talking to us. And what a story.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SHAHBAZ TASEER, SON OF SALMAN TASEER: It started off with them lashing me with rubber whips for my family. I think the first day it was 100. It
went up to 200. They would carve my back open with blades and throw salt. They would -- they sewed my mouth shut and starved me for a week.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR (voice-over): Also ahead, the inspiring work of one woman making a big difference. I first met Khadija Rama 10 years ago, taking on the
unmentionable, the scourge of AIDS in her Kenyan village.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KHADIJA RAMA, HIV/AIDS WORKER: It became into my own life when I lost my brothers and my own relatives. And I felt I needed to fight.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Good evening, everyone and welcome to the program. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London.
Nearly five years in captivity and finally free. Tonight, never before heard details from Shahbaz Taseer, the son of a Pakistani politician. He
was snatched off the streets by a rare and brutal Islamist group in 2011.
Now he tells us that his government needs to protect all Pakistanis and the silent majority in Pakistan needs to mobilize against extremist violence.
But first, our Saima Mohsin has the backstory.
SAIMA MOHSIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Almost five years since his abduction, this is the first anyone had seen of Shahbaz Taseer. He'd been
held by the Taliban in Islamastan, the Pakistani military announced his freedom on Twitter in March, saying they picked him around Kuchlak, a
small, remote town in Pakistan's southwestern province, Balochistan. How he got there is a mystery.
Authorities have released few details about the kidnapping, where he was found, a far cry from his life and home in an upscale area of Lahore, where
he was abducted in August 2011.
Yet another blow for a family that had already suffered an horrific attack. Shabazz is the son of Punjab governor, Salman Taseer, murdered in the same
year by his own guard, killed for speaking out against the death penalty as part of Pakistan's controversial blasphemy law and standing up for a
Christian woman accused of the crime.
He was hailed a hero. But so, too, was his killer by the extreme right in the country.
Shabazz and his wife, Maheen, had only been married two years when he was abducted. Her father was one of the negotiators, an integral part of
keeping contact with Shabazz's captors and keeping him alive.
She spoke to me on the phone, telling me, "Having him back and seeing his strength of character has left me in awe. I'm inspired by him every day" -
- Saima Mohsin, CNN.
AMANPOUR: Now Shabazz Taseer has not talked to the international television press until today. He joined me exclusively from Lahore.
AMANPOUR: Shahbaz Taseer, welcome to the program.
TASEER: Thank you for having me.
AMANPOUR: How does it feel to be free?
TASEER: It's -- you know, it's very difficult to describe in words because it's just -- you know, you pray for something every day, every week, every
month for years. And you want something, you dream about it and then it becomes a reality.
It's just -- it can't -- I don't think there are any words to describe the feeling. I feel amazing. But just the word doesn't do the feeling
AMANPOUR: So how were you treated when you were in captivity?
Were you treated great or were you abused?
What was it like?
TASEER: Look, I was treated horrifically. I had abysmal living --
TASEER: -- conditions and I was tortured for about a year in these extravagant, Hollywood-style movies that they would make for my family, to
put pressure on them, to put pressure on the government.
AMANPOUR: Describe to me how they tortured you and how, through your more than four years of captivity, you kept sane and alive?
TASEER: For example, they pulled my fingernails out. It started off with them lashing me with rubber whips for my family. I think the first day it
was 100. It went up to 200. They would carve my back open with blades and throw salt. They would -- they sewed my mouth shut and starved me for
They shot me behind my leg. They cut flesh off my back. I bled for seven days and they wouldn't give me any kind of medication or help. They kept
asking for some bank account that never existed.
AMANPOUR: So who are these people, Shahbaz?
Everybody wants to know; nobody's quite clear. There's all sorts of conflicting rumors and indications of who may have kidnapped you.
Who were they?
TASEER: I was kidnapped by the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan. It is a group that, before I think August 2015, was in -- was under the umbrella of
the Iran Taliban.
AMANPOUR: What were their demands?
TASEER: I won't get into the details of their demand but what they wanted was money and a prisoner exchange of about 25 militants. And you know, it
just -- it wasn't going to work out. It just wasn't going to happen. And I knew this from the time that they released their demand.
AMANPOUR: Tell me how you were released.
TASEER: There was no operation. There was no ransom or any kind of exchange. It's a very long story. But basically I was -- the Uzbeks and
the Iran Taliban went to war over a clash of ideology, I don't know.
They went to war with each other. And, in this war, the Iran Taliban finished the Uzbeks, that group, the group of the Uzbeks. And whether it
was women, children or men, they were merciless.
And somehow, where everybody was dying around me, somehow I managed to survive. And they took me -- the Iran Taliban took me as a prisoner,
refusing to accept that I was kidnapped. They were accusing me of being an Uzbek. So it started off in being in Uzbek, then would go with them to
finally I was jailed, I was sentenced to six months to two years, anywhere in between, to a jail in Balochistan (ph).
And I met someone there who helped release me. And then I just tracked my way back to Pakistan and -- I mean it was a long -- I think I -- it was the
29th of February, was the day that I left the prison and I think it was the 8th of March, where I finally called my mother and said, I'm here. Can you
AMANPOUR: Tell me about calling --
TASEER: -- pick me up.
AMANPOUR: -- calling your mother because obviously there's a restaurateur in Quetta, where apparently you turned up and asked for some grilled meat
and a telephone, please.
TASEER: There was no grilled meat. It was very professional. Straight away, I asked for the phone.
I said, "Look, I need to make a call."
But, you know, my appearance was such that they said, "Look, you're a Taliban and you people always get us in trouble."
So he refused to give me the phone.
And, amazingly, a Taliban who was there did give me his phone and said, "You look like you're in distress and you need help."
And so amazingly this guy gives me his phone and I called my mother and said, "Look, I'm here; the details are not important.
"Can you get me out of here safely and quietly?"
And I mean, until the second that I felt that I was in safe hands, I didn't believe that this was possible. So it's amazing.
AMANPOUR: Part of this whole drama is that, there you were, kidnapped in 2011. Your father, governor of Punjab, was assassinated by one of his own
bodyguards regarding the blasphemy laws in Pakistan. And he was considered too lenient by wanting unity and education between all the different faiths
Your reaction to your father's assassination and to how that plays into what you say needs to be changed?
TASEER: I think, with my father, you know, he was basically assassinated for having a --
TASEER: -- different point of view about a law that -- he just said this needs to be amended. Laws are made to protect people. They're there to
AMANPOUR: What is your hope for this law to change, when you consider that the assassin of your father, who was then executed himself and was hanged
and put to death, there was a groundswell of support for him?
People came from all over the place and threw rose petals at the murderer of your father; in other words, supporting these rigid laws and,
particularly, the blasphemy law.
It's ignorance. They have no idea what they're doing. If you actually ask them to speak to you, on the basis of Islam, show you where it's written,
they're speechless. They're all driven by somebody else riling them up. And again, it's -- the core issue is ignorance. It's these people are
ignorant. And there is a lot of ignorance in Pakistan.
But I promise you, when I say this, there is a silent majority sitting there, who supports my father.
AMANPOUR: OK, so how do you mobilize this silent majority?
Because, obviously, that is the challenge for the future.
Look, I'm not a politician. And I'm not a politician. This is a problem for the Pakistan government, which says it is very serious about fighting
extremism and radical Islam.
It has -- the army of Pakistan is carrying out a massive operation in the tribal areas. The point is, the government of Pakistan has to protect the
people of Pakistan, that is every single individual. Every individual's life is of the same value. They have to realize this. And then they have
to do something about this problem.
AMANPOUR: How is life for you today?
Have you recovered from your horrendous experiences?
And how is it working with your wife?
I don't mean between the two of you. But you are obviously answering a lot of questions that the public has for you both.
TASEER: Yes. Look, life is amazing. It's just, you know, you walk back, you have nothing and then you have your life back. You spend 4.5 years
thinking that you would never see the people that you love. The faces that you love fade away.
And so here I am -- I'm not -- I mean, I'm taking it one step at a time and just enjoying my friends and my family.
AMANPOUR: Were there any moments of levity, of lightness, that helped you through the years you were in prison, the years you did not know what was
going to happen to you?
TASEER: From the time that they asked for the -- they put forward their demands, I knew that this is an impossible situation. And I had nothing
but patience. And I had to be very patient.
And I think it's something that I've learned. And it's an amazing thing to learn. People, like friends and family, they just say you're very brave,
you came back, it was very heroic.
But these are not things that I can say about myself. What I can say about myself is that I learned to be very patient, whether it was being tortured
or waking up the next day, whether it was one bad news after the other.
Whatever it was, I had to be patient and I had to be strong. I had to have a will that -- I mean, I was very firm to myself, that this is your
situation but you will not accept it. And so I had to survive and I did.
And that's for me, just personally, it's a personal victory for me just to be here.
AMANPOUR: Shabazz Taseer, thank you so much for joining me.
TASEER: Thank you so much having me. Thank you.
AMANPOUR: An incredible story of the endurance of the human spirit.
And we focus on another strong spirit after a break. My interview with the woman who is winning the war against AIDS in her own little corner of
Kenya. That's next.
AMANPOUR: Welcome back to the program.
When the relentless tide of bad news threatens to overwhelm us, it is great to stumble onto some good news -- in this case, about HIV/AIDS.
Since 2004, the number of related deaths around the world has dropped by a massive 42 percent. Of course, maintaining that progress means keeping up
the investment in drugs and care. That's according to the U.N.
A one-woman force of nature has been fighting the epidemic and the fear and ignorance around it in her village of Isiolo in Kenya. With children being
abandoned on the streets in droves by dying parents, Khadija Rama set up a makeshift clinic and called her project Pepo La Tumaini. It means "wind of
hope in the desert."
We first met 10 years ago, when I interviewed her for my documentary on AIDS orphans. Ten years later, she's raising funds in London and telling
us how much has changed.
AMANPOUR: Khadija Rama, welcome to the program.
RAMA: Thank you very much.
AMANPOUR: So, Khadija, I first met you may, many years ago in Isiolo, Kenya, where you were really a one-woman effort, trying to save your
community that was being devastated by HIV/AIDS.
AMANPOUR: How have things changed for you?
RAMA: Well, Christiane, it's been a long time, yes, but I'm glad to tell you that today the women of Isiolo have made such a big difference and we
have a good program going on, people living positive and also women and children having a second chance in life.
AMANPOUR: And before we get to some of the video, because we're seeing some of these amazing women who you took me to meet, there we are, you and
I, talking about the real problem that was happening there in this community; there were only women, because all the men had died of AIDS.
RAMA: Yes. AIDS was a new thing to our people and our community. In our way of life, it was not acceptable. So it wasn't something that we could
take in as actually, it is AIDS. We thought it was something dreadful, something beyond your understanding.
AMANPOUR: So at this kind of ceremony that you brought me to -- there we are, you and I, in the background -- you were telling me that you had to
have a couple of the men in this particular place, in order that they gave permission for their women to listen to you, teach them the basics about
contraception and protection.
RAMA: Yes. Yes, we were going to talk about something which was beyond a woman's decision. So we needed a bigger representation of a decision-maker
and that was a man.
It is, in our way of life, that men are actually the main decision-makers. So the men, they have made quite a difference to be there. And they
actually honored us to be there on that day because we were going to talk about what women were really not allowed to decide upon.
AMANPOUR: And has that made a difference?
Do you see the incidence of HIV/AIDS going down in your area?
Do you see more women surviving, more children surviving?
RAMA: Yes, we have really made quite an effort and the people there have actually made a lot of awareness and sensitization, really made a
difference to our people. And, today, we can see a lot of positive living and actually less infection.
AMANPOUR: So here is some of the households. You can see these children, at least one or two of them, in uniforms.
AMANPOUR: Describe to me, what was going on when you first started, not just your clinic but your school. I mean, there were kids being abandoned
all over the place, right?
By parents who were dying of AIDS?
RAMA: Yes. It's because the people are afraid of AIDS. And actually it was like a curse to the people. So for these children to have uniforms,
actually it made them proud and it gave them another possibility of identifying themselves and also kind of commanding some dignity.
And in that way, they felt encouraged to stand up and have a second chance.
AMANPOUR: But 22 years ago, when you started, it --
AMANPOUR: -- wasn't like that.
How did you get involved in the business of saving these lives?
RAMA: It became into my own life when I lost my brothers and my own relatives. And I felt I needed to fight and especially when it meant that
my mother would be discriminated because her children were dying of HIV and AIDS. So I thought I should stand up and fight and actually make it
possible for my people to understand that it was not a curse and she was not cursed.
It was a condition that has come to our people. And we can actually address it and understand it and make people accept others when they have
HIV and AIDS.
AMANPOUR: So what is the status in your area?
Is the incidence of HIV/AIDS going down, because, as we know, it's still very high in sub-Saharan Africa.
RAMA: It is very high but at least our people are more ready now and they accept each other than -- at least, the rate of abandonment is not so much.
And women are now also listened to, to some extent, because at least they could make sure that they made something heard and they gave this community
a second chance.
So the Wind of Hope in the Desert is actually known for its campaigns and its restoration of human dignity in our people.
AMANPOUR: On that note, Khadija Rama, thank you very much.
RAMA: Thank you very much, Christiane. I'm so grateful.
AMANPOUR: Fearless in the face of a frightening disease and the rejection that came with it.
Now in the U.K. this weekend, women trooping their colors for the horse- loving queen of England.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR (voice-over): It's not often you see Middle Eastern women daredevil horse riders. Oman's royal cavalry there, risking life and limb
by clearly not style as they join celebrations for Queen Elizabeth II's 90th birthday.
And up next, a woman who jumped right back into the saddle after suffering terrible trauma. Imagine swimming for your life as a refugee, only to find
yourself swimming for refugees in the Olympics. Our report -- after this.
AMANPOUR: And finally tonight, imagine a life tested by water. Having barely survived that desperate Mediterranean crossing, along with hundreds
of thousands of other refugees, Syrian teenager Yusra Mardini dived right back into her passion as soon as she could. It happens to be swimming.
Now referred to a local club by a German charity, she met a coach and now she's trying to qualify for the Rio Olympics. Atika Shubert with her
ATIKA SHUBERT, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Yusra Mardini was a teenager in Damascus --
SHUBERT (voice-over): -- who loved to swim. In 2015, she and her family decided to flee for Germany, crossing from Turkey to Greece by boat.
Halfway there, the engine broke.
YUSRA MARDINI, SWIMMER: After a few minutes, the motor stuck and, yes, after that, everyone was freaked out -- oh, my god; oh, my god and everyone
SHUBERT (voice-over): Yusra, her sister and a friend jumped into the water and pushed the boat ashore.
MARDINI: The salt was in my eye and I lost my glasses and it's like minus 2, minus 2. And then my sister stayed there until we arrived, yes, and it
took with us, like three hours in the water.
SHUBERT: And then, after that, you still had the journey to go all the way from Greece to Germany?
MARDINI: Yes, Macedonia, Serbia, Hungary, Vienna.
SHUBERT: How long did it take you to get to Germany?
MARDINI: Twenty-nine days.
SHUBERT (voice-over): In Germany, Yusra listed swimming as her hobby. She was introduced to her coach, Sven Spannekrebs.
SHUBERT: If I can ask you, Sven, how did you hear about Yusra?
And what was your first impression when you met her?
SVEN SPANNEKREBS, SWIMMING COACH: The first impression was that they had have a good education, swimming. Their technical foundation is really good
and they had a lot of kilometers.
SHUBERT (voice-over): Yusra is training to qualify for the Rio Olympics. She would compete on the first team of refugee athletes in Olympic history.
MARDINI: You wake up 6:00 am. And you get into the school. I have two class, and then I have to swim two hours, then I continue in the school,
then I have food. Then after food, I have second training. I will be done at 7:00 or 8:00.
SHUBERT: Wow. (INAUDIBLE).
MARDINI: Yes. Then I go back, eat and sleep.
SHUBERT: So how much time does she to make to qualify for the Olympics?
SPANNEKREBS: To do this, this Olympics in Rio, the South Olympics and there's a time on the freestyle is 2.03.
SHUBERT: And what are you swimming at now, Yusra?
SHUBERT: 2:12, so you're working to shave off 11 seconds or so.
MARDINI: Yes. It's hard.
SHUBERT: It's hard, yes.
MARDINI: But it's 11 seconds. It's not a game.
SHUBERT (voice-over): For Yusra, swimming is not a game, it's her life -- Atika Shubert, CNN, Berlin.
AMANPOUR: And there's something about our human spirit, you just can't keep it down.
That is it for our program tonight. Remember you can listen to our podcast, see us online at amanpour.com and follow me on Facebook and
Twitter. Thanks for watching and goodbye from London.