KABUL/LAHORE: Three years after he was abducted by militants from his hometown Multan, Ali Haider Gilani, the son of former Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, returned home to a a rapturous welcome at his family house in Lahore.
He was accompanied by his brother Qasim Gilani in a special aircraft that brought him to Lahore from Afghanistan, from where he was rescued on Tuesday by a joint force of Afghan and US commandos who attacked a house held by al Qaeda militants.
Emotional scenes were witnessed at the Lahore Airport when Ali Haider Gilani met his family after three long years in captivity. His mother, wife, son and brothers were there to receive him at the VIP lounge of the Allama Iqbal Airport.
Ali Haider lifted his six-year-old son in his arms as he met his family. His mother shed tears of joy.
Ali Haider was handed over to Pakistan by Afghan officials earlier today. The Afghan defense minister handed over Ali Haider to Ibrar Hussain, the Pakistani ambassador in Kabul, at 10 am. They were taken to the airport by a helicopter for onward travel to Lahore.
He was recovered in a joint operation by Afghan and US forces in Ghazni on Tuesday, three years after he was kidnapped from a pre-election rally in Multan.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghanis office said Afghan security forces defeated an Al Qaeda cell in a joint operation with international forces, and suggested that the discovery of Gilani may have been accidental, Reuters reported.
During this anti-insurgency operation, Ali Haider Gilani…was identified at the site of the operation, and was freed from terrorists, a spokesperson said.
The news was first broken by Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari in a tweet.
Former PM Yousuf Raza Gilani was on his way to a Pakistan Peoples Party rally at Bagh Azad Kashmir on Tuesday when he received a phone call from the Afghan foreign office. He then talked to his son. I talked to my son while I was on my way, said Gilani, addressing the rally.
The family was jubilant over the much anticipated meeting. Ali Haiders mother Fouzia Gilani said that for the last three years she had been shedding tears. Allah has finally heard my prayers.
His brothers Abdul Qadir and Ali Musa Gilani who share a birthday with Ali Haider said that for the last three years they had not celebrated his birthday. But now I will, Ali Musa said.
His six-year-old son Jamal ud Din Gilanis face lit up when he heard news of his fathers arrival. I am very happy that Baba is coming home, he said.
Sacrificial goats were brought to the Gilani residence in Lahore.
Ali Haider was seized by suspected Taliban militants in a hail of gunfire on the outskirts of Multan on May 9, 2013, two days before the general elections in which he was campaigning.
Gunmen on a motorbike opened fire before abducting Ali Haider in a black Honda car. His secretary and a bodyguard were killed and four people wounded. Haider was contesting a seat in the Punjab provincial assembly.
In the three years he was abducted, Haider Gilani was able to contact his family only once through an eight-minute telephone call on May 24, 2015.
His father, former PM Yousuf Raza Gilani, was in Multan along with Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) senior leader Shah Mehmood Qureshi, who also spoke to Ali Gilani over the phone.
Gilani’s recovery comes two months after Shahbaz Taseer, the son of slain former Punjab governor Salman Taseer, was freed.
Shahbaz Taseer was rescued from Balochistan in March this year, almost five years after he was kidnapped from Lahore on Aug 26, 2011.
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