Former premier Yousaf Raza Gilani’s son, Ali Haider Gilani, was recovered in a joint operation by Afghan and US forces in Afghanistan on Tuesday, three years after he was abducted from Pakistan’s Punjab province.
Afghan officials said four men were killed during the raid that targeted an Al Qaeda cell. Ali, 30, was sent to the Pakistan embassy in Kabul and would be flown home on a special plane, they said.
The Afghan ambassador in Islamabad, Omar Zakhilwal, told the media Ali “is well and will be repatriated to his family soon”. Giving details of his telephone conversation with Yousaf Raza Gilani, the envoy wrote on Facebook: “He was ecstatically delighted as expected and grateful of President Ashraf Ghani’s personal attention to his son’s safe release.”
Pakistan’s foreign office said in a statement Ali was recovered “in a joint operation carried out by the Afghan and US security forces in Ghazni”. Afghan National Security Advisor Mohammad Hanif Atmar informed Sartaj Aziz, the Pakistani premier’s advisor on foreign affairs, about the rescue.
Ali’s brother Abdul Qadir Gilani told the media he was “so happy today that I can’t explain it in words”. Dozens of people of all ages gathered at the main junctions in Multan, waving Pakistan People’s Party flags and distributing sweets. At the time of his abduction, Ali was contesting the general election from a constituency in Multan.
Pakistan People’s Party chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari tweeted about the recovery.
The former premier thanked the Afghan security forces for ensuring a happy ending to a dreadful family saga.
Addressing a rally at Bagh in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, Yousaf Raza Gilani said, “I received news of my son’s recovery when I landed in Kashmir. However, instead of going back home to receive my son, I felt it was my duty to come here first and address the rally.”
Ali was kidnapped by suspected Taliban fighters from a political rally in Multan on May 9, 2013, two days before the general election. Two workers of the Pakistan People’s Party were killed by the militants.
Eight armed men travelling in a car and two motorcycles opened fire at a corner meeting in Multan. Witnesses said a bullet hit Ali and he was bleeding when the kidnappers dragged him into the car.
Subsequently, a top government official had said Ali was in the custody of a militant group that was not part of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan. The official also said the group had demanded Rs2 billion as ransom and warned it would kill Ali if the demand was not met.
Ali was rescued two months after slain former Punjab governor Salmaan Taseer’s son Shahbaz Taseer was recovered in Balochistan, nearly five years after he was abducted from Lahore.