US, Afghan forces free kidnapped son of Pak ex-PM

Kabul, May 10

US and Afghan forces freed the kidnapped son of a former Pakistani prime minister during a counter-terrorism mission in eastern Afghanistan, NATO said today, three years after he was kidnapped in a hail of bullets.

Ali Haider Gilani, son of Yousaf Raza Gilani, “was rescued today in Giyan

District of Paktika Province Afghanistan by US Special Operations Forces and Afghan Commandos in a partnered raid,” NATO said in the statement from Kabul.

The Afghan presidency said the raid had targeted an al Qaeda cell, and that Gilani had been sent to the Pakistani embassy in Kabul.

The Afghan ambassador to Islamabad, Omar Zakhilwal, told AFP that Gilani was in good health.

“He is fine, he can walk, he can talk,” Zakhilwal said, adding that he expected the former hostage to return to Pakistan later today or tomorrow.

Yousaf Raza Gilani broke the news to a cheering crowd at a political rally in Pakistani-occupied Kashmir today.

“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. Some also hugged and presented flowers to Ali Haider’s brother, Abdul Qadir Gilani, who 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.

“God has accepted somebody’s prayer. The prayer of those who love us,” a third brother, Ali Musa Gilani, told media.

NATO said in its statement that the raid was carried out under Operation Freedom’s Sentinel, the US mission focusing on counter-terrorism as well as training, advising and assisting Afghan troops.

“Four enemy combatants were killed as a result of the operation,” it said.

Gilani was kidnapped by militants on 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.