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Ali Haider Gilani, Ex-Pakistan Leader's Son, Is Rescued After 3 Years

After three years in captivity, a son of a former Pakistani prime minister was freed by Afghan and United States security forces during a raid on Qaeda militants in Afghanistan, officials said on Tuesday.

Ali Haider Gilani, 30, son of former Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani, was kidnapped in May 2013 from a suburb of his hometown, Multan, just days before general elections.

The kidnapping came as a jolt to Yousaf Raza Gilani's Pakistan Peoples Party, which along with the Awami National Party had faced threats from the Taliban over their campaigns against the militants.

Afghan and American officials said on Tuesday that United States Special Operations forces and Afghan commandos had carried out a joint raid against militants in the district of Giyan in Paktika Province that resulted in the recovery of Mr. Gilani.

Brig. Gen. Charles Cleveland, the chief spokesman for United States and NATO forces in Afghanistan, said the joint operation had targeted a Qaeda camp. "We sensed there was a hostage also, but that was not the purpose of the mission," General Cleveland said. "Some of the individuals tried to flee and they were shot, a total of four people. The person who did not resist was Gilani."

Pakistan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement on Tuesday that Mohammad Hanif Atmar, Afghanistan's national security adviser, had called Sartaj Aziz, the adviser on foreign affairs to Pakistan's prime minister, to inform him about the recovery.

Afghan officials denied that such a contact had been made.

Mr. Gilani was campaigning for a provincial assembly seat in a suburb of Multan on May 9, 2013, when he was attacked by gunmen who shot and killed his personal secretary before kidnapping him. Two of his brothers, who were running for seats in the National Assembly, withdrew from the elections after the kidnapping. His father was dismissed as prime minister in 2012 by Pakistan's Supreme Court after he refused to open corruption cases against the president at the time, Asif Ali Zardari.

The news of Mr. Gilani's recovery was welcomed across Pakistan and by the Pakistan Peoples Party. Supporters of Mr. Gilani gathered outside the Gilani family's home in Multan, some dancing to drums during the celebration while others handed out sweets.

In March, Shahbaz Ali Taseer, the son of a prominent former governor, was found in southwestern Pakistan five years after militants kidnapped him.

Members of the Gilani family said they were overjoyed.

"We are so ecstatic and relieved," Fiza Gilani, Mr. Gilani's sister, said by phone from the eastern city of Lahore. "It was a terrible ordeal, and all these years, I and the whole family kept praying for the safe return of my brother. Today, that day has finally arrived."

It was not immediately clear when Mr. Gilani was moved by his captors to Afghanistan. There has been speculation that he was being held in the Pakistani tribal area of North Waziristan until 2014, when the Pakistani military conducted an offensive against militants there.

Family members said that last year he had made contact with the family, calling from an Afghan telephone number and urging them to cooperate with his captors, who were demanding the release of several militants held in Pakistani jails. "However, we told them that it was not in our hands and we could not do anything about it," Fiza Gilani said.

On Tuesday afternoon, Ali Haider Gilani spoke by phone with family members in Pakistan from Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan, said Ali Musa Gilani, a brother. "He asked us to make his return quick," he said.

[Source: By Salman Masood and Mujib Mashal, The New York Times, Islamabad, Pak, 10May16]

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small logoThis document has been published on 19May16 by the Equipo Nizkor and Derechos Human Rights. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.