Juba / AFP
The freed son of a former Pakistani premier reunited with his family in a shower of rose petals in Lahore on Wednesday, three years after he was kidnapped then taken to Afghanistan.
Ali Haider Gilani, son of Yousaf Raza Gilani, was rescued during a counter-terror raid by US and Afghan forces in eastern Afghanistan Tuesday.
Crowds of well-wishers dancing to drum beats greeted the 30-year-old’s arrival at his family’s home in Lahore in a black SUV strewn with pink rose petals.
Gilani, who is a triplet, was accompanied by his brother Ali Kasim on the journey from Kabul in a plane that the Pakistani foreign ministry said was sent by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.
His father was reportedly absent from the reunion, with television channels reporting his appearance in a court in Islamabad on corruption charges. “I really appreciate the… Afghan forces efforts,” Gilani, bearded and wearing a white T-shirt and camouflage baseball cap, told media at a ceremony earlier Wednesday in Kabul. “I would also like to thank the US forces which at the critical moments of my release provided me with shelter, food and medical care.
“And, at this time, I am looking forward to be reunited with my family, just getting back to normal life.” Gilani was rescued in the Giyan district of Paktika province Tuesday by US Special Operations Forces and Afghan commandos, NATO has said.
The Afghan presidency said the raid targeted an Al-Qaeda cell.
He was kidnapped by militants in the outskirts of Multan in the central Pakistani province of Punjab on May 9, 2013, just two days before a bitterly contested national election in which he was campaigning. In May last year, he was able to phone his father to tell him he was well. NATO said 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 during the raid, it said.
The Pentagon was tight-lipped about events leading up to the raid, but said it occurred after US and Afghan forces had “identified terrorist activity”.“There were terrorists where they struck and conducted this raid, and during that activity they were able to rescue Mr Gilani,” US Central Command spokesman Colonel Pat Ryder said.