ISLAMABAD: Afghan and international forces freed the kidnapped son of a former Pakistani prime minister during a raid on an Al-Qaeda cell in Afghanistan, Afghanistan and Pakistan said Tuesday, three years after he was kidnapped in a hail of bullets.
Ali Haider Gilani, son of Yousaf Raza Gilani, was “released from the terrorists” during the raid in eastern Afghanistan, the Afghan presidency said, adding that he is now at the Pakistani embassy in Kabul.
Pakistan’s foreign ministry also said in a statement that Gilani had been recovered “today in a joint operation carried out by the Afghan and US security forces”.
Preparations are being made to return him to Pakistan following a medical check-up, it said, but offered no further detail.
Yousaf Raza Gilani broke the news to a cheering crowd at a political rally in Pakistani-held Kashmir Tuesday.
“This rally has proved fortunate for me,” he said.
“When I was about to board the helicopter (to come) I received the information that my son Ali Haider Gilani, who was kidnapped three years ago, has been recovered.”
Hundreds of people converged on the family’s home in Multan in central Punjab province as the news broke, dancing to drumbeats and passing around sweets in celebration.
The brother of kidnapped Ali Haider, Abdul Qadir Gilani, told media he was “so happy today that I can’t explain it in words”.
“He is still in Afghanistan and soon he will be among us,” he said of his brother.
Earlier, Abdul Qadir said he believed his father had gone to Afghanistan on learning the news.
“God has accepted somebody’s prayer. The prayer of those who love us,” a third brother, Ali Musa Gilani, told media.
NATO officials in Kabul were unable to immediately confirm the Pakistani statement.
“We are aware of the report,” a spokesman for the NATO-led international coalition in Afghanistan told AFP, adding that more details would be provided once they were “available for release”.
There were conflicting statements from Pakistani and Afghan officials over where the raid took place, whether in the eastern province of Ghazni or in neighbouring Paktia.
Provincial officials in Ghazni were also unable to provide immediate confirmation or details.
Gilani was kidnapped by militants in the outskirts of Multan on May 9, 2013, just two days before a bitterly contested national election in which he was campaigning.
Gunmen on a motorbike opened fire before abducting him in a black Honda car. His secretary and a bodyguard were killed, and four people wounded.
In May last year he was able to phone his father to tell him he was well.
The ex-premier’s family is one of the most powerful in Multan and a key clan in the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), which lost the 2013 election.
The foreign ministry statement comes two months after the kidnapped son of another Pakistani politician was also freed.
Shahbaz Taseer, son of slain Punjabi governor Salman Taseer, spent five years in militant captivity before his abrupt release in March.
Gilani senior was prime minister from March 2008 until he was sacked and indicted by the Supreme Court in April 2012 for refusing to re-open corruption cases against the then-president.
He had complained after the kidnapping that his family was not given security, despite being threatened.-APP
Here is the tweet from chairman of Pakistan Peoples Party Bialwal Bhutto Zaradari.
— BilawalBhuttoZardari (@BBhuttoZardari) May 10, 2016
History of abduction
Last year on May 24th, Yousaf Raza Gilani received an anonymous telephone call from Afghanistan and it happened to be Ali. The father and son had an eight-minute long conversation. Ali told his father he was better and also spoke to Shah Mahmood Qureshi.
“My son told me that he is happy and safe at an unknown place,” the elder Gilani told the media after the phone call. “He inquire about the health of his mother and other family members. He declined to disclose more and said that Almighty Allah will surely help us. He said he is safe and sound and we should not be worried about him.”
He said that a man named Javed Paracha, who spoke on behalf of Abu Yazeed, had told him that he had been holding Ali Haider in captivity.
“Paracha gave me an audio recording of Ali Haider, but later he disassociated himself from Abu Yazeed, and a new mediator, a former student of a seminary, gave me a video recording in which my son said that he had been kidnapped by Mujahideen and their demand should be met for his recovery.”
The government had received a video last year showing Ali Haider in chains and the kidnappers demanding Rs 2 billion for his release. Later they reduced the ransom to Rs 500 million.