Kidnapped son of former Pakistan PM rescued after 3 years

Abdul Qadir Gilani, centre, accepts flowers from supporters in Multan. Picture: AFP/Getty Images
Abdul Qadir Gilani, centre, accepts flowers from supporters in Multan. Picture: AFP/Getty Images
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The kidnapped son of Pakistan’s former prime minister Yusuf Raza Gilani has been rescued in Afghanistan in a joint Afghan-US special forces operation.

Pakistani officials said Ali Haider Gilani would be transferred to Pakistan.

Mr Gilani was abducted three years ago in his home town of Multan, central Pakistan, as he was campaigning in elections for the Pakistan Peoples’ Party (PPP). The Afghan envoy to Pakistan said he was held by a group linked to al-Qaeda.

The rescue raid took place yesterday in the Gayan district of Pakitka province, under the authority of the US anti-terrorist mission in Afghanistan, Operation Freedom’s Sentinel.

“Four enemy combatants were killed as a result of the operation. No other injuries or damage was observed or reported,” a statement from US officials said.

It said the counter-terror mission was “planned and launched after evidence of terrorist activity was confirmed.”

A spokesman for Afghanistan’s National Security Council, Tawad Ghorzang, told reporters in Kabul the rescue took place during an ongoing operation in the area against al-Qaeda and other militants.

The operation did not specifically seek Gilani, but came across him during anti-terrorist operations, he said.

Gilani was in good health, Ghorzang added, and “will soon be handed through diplomatic channels to Pakistan.”

The elder Gilani, who served as prime minister from 2008 to 2012, said last year the kidnappers demanded the release of several al-Qaeda prisoners in exchange for his son. He also said the captors had let his son talk to him by phone for eight minutes, and that he was being held somewhere in Afghanistan.

Gunmen kidnapped the younger Gilani in May 2013, several days before the general elections in his home town. There was no claim of responsibility for the abduction but suspicion immediately fell on the Taliban.

However, Ghorzang’s account said the US/Afghan raid targeted al-Qaeda and other militants and the fact that Ali Haider was found inside Afghanistan – quite far from where he was abducted in Pakistan – indicated he might have changed hands between militant groups.

Abdul Qadir Gilani, a brother of the younger Gilani, praised Afghan authorities and Pakistan’s army chief General Raheel Sharif for his brother’s successful recovery.

He said that the army chief had also called their father about the rescue.

A jubilant elder Gilani was seen on Pakistani TV attending an election rally after hearing the news.

“This is a very good day for me,” the father said as Abdul Qadir told reporters his brother would be travelling from Afghanistan to Islamabad.

“I am very happy and I have no words to express my joy,” Abdul Qadir said.

Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif issued a statement expressing pleasure over the rescue.

The current leader of the People’s Party, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, announced on Twitter that the Afghan ambassador in Islamabad had called the elder Gilani to tell him about his son.