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US, Afghan forces free kidnapped son of Pakistani ex-premier

File photo of Ali Haider Gilani speaking during a campaign meeting at a house on the outskirts of Multan before his abduction by unidentified gunmen in May 2013

By Mehreen Zahra-Malik

The kidnapped son of a former Pakistani prime minister has been rescued in Afghanistan in a joint operation by Afghan and US forces, three years after gunmen abducted him in his Pakistani home town, Pakistan said on Tuesday.

Ali Haider Gilani, son of ex-premier Yusuf Raza Gilani, “has been recovered today in a joint operation carried out by the Afghan and US security forces in Ghazni, Afghanistan,” the Pakistani foreign office said in a statement.

It added that he would be transferred to Pakistan after a medical check-up.

In a separate statement posted on Facebook, Afghan ambassador to Pakistan, Omar Zakhilwal, said Ali Haider was freed “in an operation by Afghan Special Forces in Ghazni province this (Tuesday) morning”.

His statement made no mention of US forces’ involvement in the rescue. The US-led NATO mission in Afghanistan said it was aware of the reports, but had no immediate comment.

Local media reported that the freed captive had been shifted to Bagram airport in Afghanistan and would reach Pakistan in a few hours.

“When we first heard the news, we didn’t believe it and only believed it once the foreign office confirmed it,” Ali Musa Gilani, Ali Haider’s brother, told Pakistan’s Geo TV.

“Right now, we don’t have any plans to celebrate. We are just waiting to see his face.”

Ali Haider was abducted outside an office of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) in his home town of Multan, in southern Punjab province, two days before Pakistan’s landmark May 11, 2013 general election.

His father, a veteran PPP member, was prime minister from 2008 to 2012, when he was removed from office by the Supreme Court over contempt of court charges related to his refusal to reopen corruption cases against then-president Asif Ali Zardari.

Ali Haider’s was not the only high-profile abduction in Pakistan in recent years.

The son of a Pakistani governor, assassinated for criticising the country’s harsh blasphemy laws, was kidnapped in 2011. Shahbaz Taseer was recovered in the south-western city of Quetta in March.



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