KARACHI, Pakistan (AA) – The son of a former Pakistani prime minister has been recovered from southeastern Afghanistan after being held captive by an al-Qaeda linked militant group for three years, Afghan ambassador to Islamabad announced Tuesday.
Ali Haider Gilani, one of the sons of ex-premier Syed Yousaf Raza Gilani, was kidnapped by militants from the middle of a pre-election meeting in broad daylight from the Pakistani city of Multan on May 9, 2013.
While some local Pakistani media outlets such as Dawn claimed that he was rescued in joint operation involving U.S. and Afghan forces in Afghanistan’s Ghazni province, the Afghan envoy, Janan Musazai, in his official message posted on his behalf at the embassy’s official Facebook page gave credit only to Afghan security forces for recovering Gilani from an unspecified al-Qaeda linked group.
“In an operation by Afghan Special Forces in Ghazni province this morning, Mr. Ali Haidar Gilani, the son of Pakistan former Prime Minister Yusuf Reza Gilani was recovered after three years of captivity from an al-Qaeda affiliated group.
“He is well and will be repatriated to his family soon. Earlier, I called Mr. Yousaf Raza Gilani and informed him about the good news. He was ecstatically delighted as expected and grateful of [Afghan] President [Ashraf] Ghani's personal attention to his son's safe release. He also thanked the Afghan Security Forces for bringing a happy ending to a dreadful family saga for them,” the statement said.
Fiza Batool Gilani, Haider Gilani’s sister, also confirmed that her brother had been released. “I'd like to thank all our friends & family & everyone who prayed for Haider's safe return. Alhamdolillah Allah has answered our prayers!” she tweeted Tuesday.
Just one day before on the third anniversary of her brother’s kidnapping, Batool Gilani had tweeted: “It has been three years today since my brother #HaiderGillani was kidnapped. Please pray for his safe return!!”
Former Prime Minister Raza Gilani also expressed his jubilation to his supporters, mostly belonging to the Pakistan Peoples Party, during a rally in Azad Kashmir on Tuesday. According to his televised comments, he said: "I have been informed by the Afghan ambassador that my son has been recovered in a joint operation in Afghanistan."
So far, the family and Pakistani officials have remained tight-lipped about the exact circumstances behind Haider Gilani’s release. It remains unclear if there were any negotiations with the kidnappers or whether any ransom money had been paid in the recent past.
According to local Pakistani media reports, Afghan National Security Adviser Mohammad Hanif Atmar telephoned Pakistani Foreign Affairs Adviser Sartaj Aziz and shared the details of the rescue operation, a Foreign Office statement said. Details of the operation were not released to the public.
Ali Haider is expected to be brought to Islamabad from Kabul through a special aircraft, local media quoting Afghan and Pakistani officials said.
Ali Haider’s release comes just weeks after another prominent slain leader’s son from the same political party was released by another separate group of militants.
Shahbaz Taseer, son of slain former Punjab Governor Salman Taseer, was released in March this year after being held for more than four years by Uzbek and Pakistani extremist group militants.
In his message to Haider Gilani, Shahbaz Taseer tweeted: “Welcome back @haidergilani”.
*Anadolu Agency Correspondent Aamir Latif contributed to this report from Karachi, Pakistan.