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ISLAMABAD: Son of ex-prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, Ali Haider Gilani, who was abducted three years ago from Multan, has been recovered from Afghanistan's Ghazni province in a joint operation carried out by Afghan and US forces against an 'Al Qaeda affiliated group'.

  • Ali Haider recovered from Afghanistan this morning
  • Joint operation of US and Afghan forces led to recovery
  • Ali Haider said to be held by Al-Qaeda affiliate group
  • Authorities say Ali Ali Haider is in good health, will arrive in country soon

Former premier Gilani received a call from the ambassador of Afghanistan to Pakistan, informing him that Ali Haider had been recovered in a successful operation in Afghanistan. Gilani was 'ecstatically delighted' after receiving the news, said the Afghan ambassador in a Facebook post.

Ali Haider Gilani -Reuters/File
Ali Haider Gilani -Reuters/File

Ali Haider is safe and in good health, and arrangements are being made to bring him back to Pakistan, said a statement released by the Foreign Office.

Adviser to the Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs, Sartaj Aziz, was conveyed the news by the Afghan National Security Adviser, said the statement.

Army chief Gen Raheel Sharif and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif telephoned Yousuf Raza Gilani to congratulate him on the recovery of his son.

PPP Leader Qamar Zaman Kaira while talking to DawnNews congratulated the country and the Gilani family on the news of recovery of Ali Haider.

"We are thankful to the Afghan government and all security forces which made his recovery possible," Kaira said.

News of Ali Haider's recovery was also announced by Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, and was later confirmed from the Foreign Office.

Fiza Batool Gilani, tweeted yesterday praying for her brother's safe return.

'My son has been rescued with your prayers'

Scenes of joyous celebration erupted in Bagh district, Azad Jammu & Kashmir (AJK), where crowds had already gathered for a PPP rally on Tuesday afternoon.

Former PM Yousuf Raza Gilani gave a brief but energetic address to the rally, saying his son has been rescued from Afghanistan after three years of captivity in an operation.

─ DawnNews screengrab
─ DawnNews screengrab

Gilani said he received news of his son’s rescue as he was getting on the helicopter to come to Bagh, but chose to continue to the rally. “My son has been rescued with your prayers. My happiness is so great that I could not be stingy and not share the principles of Bhutto with you all.”

The rally was part of Bilawal’s tour of AJK in the run up to elections this summer. Former prime ministers Yousuf Raza Gilani and Raja Pervez Ashraf, along with Faryal Talpur were also present at the venue, where Bilawal is scheduled to address the rally.

Speaking to Geo News, Ali Haider's brother, Ali Musa Gilani, said, "I can't wait to meet him. My mother is overwhelmed with emotion. I cannot explain in words how traumatic the three years were for our family."

Ali Haider is expected to reach his home in Multan later today.

Celebrations ahead of homecoming

Supporters of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) poured onto the streets in Multan and Azad Jammu and Kashmir and chanted celebratory slogans.

“Gilani tere jaan nisar, beshumar beshumar [We would sacrifice our life for Gilani]!”

-DawnNews
-DawnNews

Dozens of people, of all ages, gathered at main junctions in the city waving party flags and distributing mithai (sweets).

The Gilani family has a strong voter base in Multan, where voters have lent overwhelming support to the former prime minister during elections.

Kidnapped from Multan

Ali Haider was kidnapped by gunmen in Multan on May 9, 2013, days before he was slated to run for the Punjab Assembly.

Ali Haider was kidnapped when he was leaving a street corner meeting outside the house of a supporter at Matti Tal Road in Multan’s Farrukh Town.

His two associates were killed during the kidnapping.

At the time of the abduction, Ali Haider was contesting for the general election from PPP-200 constituency in Multan.

His family is one of the most powerful in the central town of Multan and a key clan in the PPP, whose campaign for re-election had been dramatically curtailed by Tehrik-i-Taliban threats at the time.

The news follows the recovery of Shahbaz Taseer, son of slain Punjab governor Salmaan Taseer, who was recovered by security and intelligence forces from Balochistan’s Kuchlak area nearly five years after his abduction in 2011.

Shahbaz was kidnapped from Lahore on Aug 26, 2011, near his company’s head office in Gulberg area. He was driving towards the offices of the First Capital Group off M.M. Alam Road in Gulberg when he was intercepted by the kidnappers.

The abductors who, according to witnesses, used a Prado jeep and a motorcycle, bundled the young Taseer into the four-wheeler and rushed away unimpeded.

No details on the whereabouts of Shahbaz had earlier been made public.