Reuters International

Shahbaz Taseer poses for a photograph during a family function in Lahore in this August 8, 2009 file photo. REUTERS/M. Abid

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ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - The son of an assassinated Pakistani governor who was released more than four years after his kidnapping by Islamist militants said the Koran, memories of his family and hearing Manchester United football games on an illicit radio helped him survive.

In his first personal account, published on Tuesday, Shahbaz Taseer described torture, illness and drone strikes during his time in captivity, mostly with Uzbek militants inside Pakistan and later with the Taliban in Afghanistan.

Shahbaz Taseer was abducted from his hometown Lahore in 2011, months after his father, Salman Taseer, then governor of Punjab province, was killed by his own bodyguard over perceived blasphemy.

He was released outside the southwestern city of Quetta on March 8.

Few details of how he was freed have been made public, nor of whether a ransom was paid.

Taseer said he was held by militants from the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan in Pakistan's lawless tribal areas and later in a jail run by the Afghan Taliban across the border.

"They (Uzbek militants) found perverse pleasure in torturing me," Taseer wrote in The Daily Times, owned by his family. "But I clung to my faith and the Koran, the memory of my courageous father and the love of my family.

"I could not go home, but I could bring my home to me. In my mind I visited familiar places. I conjured up my boisterous friends back home ... and imagined myself to be a stand-up comedian."

In the weeks since his return, Taseer's humour has won him many admirers on social media.

Asked by a follower whether he was asked to formally join the Taliban, he said: "No, they didn't like my sense of style." His only friend, he tweeted on March 31, "was a spider called Peter."

He also recounted how one of the guards, a Manchester United fan like Taseer, brought him an illicit radio and they listened to football games together - saying the guard considered it both a sin and guilty pleasure.

"Getting football news kept me sane," Taseer wrote. "I would tell myself, 'They are playing and winning for you'."

Taseer did not go into details of how he landed up with the Afghan Taliban but said a Taliban elder helped him escape and he rode a motorbike for eight days from inside Afghanistan to Pakistan's Baluchistan province.

"Looking back, I can see that I was always free," he wrote. "No one can imprison you except yourself."

(Reporting by Mehreen Zahra-Malik; Editing by Kay Johnson and Nick Macfie)

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