Lahore - On the 8th of March, it was raining in the cold, stormy town of Kuchlak, 25 km north of Quetta. A young man with long hair and an overgrown beard reportedly stopped at a roadside eatery and with a borrowed cell-phone, made the call that his family had been waiting for, for almost five years.

It was on August 26, 2011, almost eight months after the murder of his father, that Shahbaz Taseer was abducted near his family home in Lahore, and then disappeared without a trace. Unofficial reports often surfaced of his whereabouts, with speculations that he was being held captive in Waziristan. After the military operation got underway in North Waziristan in 2014, it was presumed he had been moved to another location. The identity of his abductors remained unknown, but it was speculated that custody was transferred between various militant organisations over the course of the last five years.

Shahbaz’s recovery comes at a particularly important time for the country, and for those on one side of Pakistan’s extremist-liberal divide. On February 29th, Mumtaz Qadri, the killer of Governor Salmaan Taseer, was executed under the National Action Plan when his mercy appeal was denied by the President. It is reported that tens of thousands of supporters attended his funeral and the tributes held in his name around the country hailed him a martyr of the faith. A week after the funeral, the Pakistani Taliban’s Jamaat ul Ahrar faction took responsibility for a suicide bombing near Peshawar in which at least 17 people were killed. The group spokesperson Ehsanullah Ehsan, in an emailed statement, declared that the bombing was to extract “revenge” for Qadri’s hanging, and promised that greater violence was still to come. With Shahbaz still in militant custody, it was a difficult time for those waiting for him to return safely.

After Governor Salmaan Taseer’s assassination for his request of a review of the blasphemy law, and Shahbaz’s abduction soon after, the Taseer family became resilient symbols for those at the forefront of the Pakistani struggle against extremism. Year after year, quiet and peaceful candle-light vigils held across the country on the anniversary of Salmaan Taseer’s death were often disrupted by Qadri’s supporters. The family braved every unkindness, clinging to the hope that Shahbaz would be returned to them, against all odds.

It was their hope in a more humane Pakistan.

The road from Lahore to Kuchlak is a long one, with almost 1000km between them, and the details of Shahbaz Taseer’s journey will be a story only his to tell. At approximately 5.30 pm on Tuesday, as news of his recovery began to trickle in, strangers and well-wishers around the country took to their twitter pages to celebrate with and for the Taseer family. Scenes in newsrooms were of jubilation, as teary eyed journalists embraced one another and wept with happiness and relief. To most, this is an event that signifies more than just the return of the innocent young man who was taken from his family in Lahore. It is a homecoming that symbolises the return of a misplaced sanity. It strengthens the belief in a state that is doing something right.

On Tuesday night, the ISPR released a photograph of a smiling Shahbaz Taseer, with the statement that he was “hale and hearty.” Outside his home in Lahore, there is a frenzy; an onslaught of media, TV vans and cameras sit parked and poised, waiting to report the news of his arrival to the world. But inside, preparations for his arrival are intimate and beautiful; there are fresh flowers in every vase, the lamps are turned on, and in the air, there is an anticipation - a sense, that strange, mysterious sense, that something wonderful is at last about to begin.