Lahore: Ali Haider Gilani, son of ex-premier Yousuf Raza Gilani, broke his silence about his kidnapping ordeal on Tuesday, saying he was abducted by Al Qaeda, which wanted the release of some women from the family of the group’s leader Ayman al-Zwahiri in exchange for his freedom.
Speaking to BBC Urdu at his Lahore residence, Gilani said he was in Al Qaeda’s captivity for three years.
Ali Gilani was recovered last month in a joint operation carried out by Afghan and US forces from an Al Qaeda compound in Afghanistan’s Paktika province.
Ali Gilani says that during this time in captivity, an important member of the militant group who went by the name of Zia stayed with him.
“Al Qaeda was demanding the release of some women from Ayman al-Zwahiri’s family in my exchange, and a hefty sum.”
He said although he had not received any threats prior to his abduction, he was told that he was being “followed”.
‘You are our enemy’
Detailing the moments of his abduction, Gilani said he was leaving a rally with supporters and two security guards when someone took him by the neck and pushed him hard, so he fell on the ground. He then heard shots being fired and saw his two guards dropping near him. Gilani said he was then hit on the head with a gun and he started to bleed.
“I then thought they had come to kill me,” he said.
The abductors, who Gilani said totalled six men, then shoved him inside a car. Fearing he could be wearing a spy device on his body, they stripped him and threw his clothes out.
“Their first question to me was, are you Sunni or Shia,” said Gilani, adding that the abductors, “who were all speaking in Punjabi” told him to keep mum.
He was first taken from Multan to Khanewal, and then to Faisalabad, said Gilani. He said the car they were travelling in was covered with election posters and flags.
The abductors introduced themselves as Al Qaeda men and told Gilani he had been abducted because he is “the son of Yousuf Raza Gilani”.
“Operations were conducted against Osama bin Laden in Abottabad and Swat and Waziristan during your father’s term. You are our enemy!” Gilani quoted the abductors as saying.
He said he was kept in Faisalabad for some time before being taken to Waziristan.
Gilani said they were not stopped for checking during the travel from Multan to Faisalabad, where he said he was kept chained for two and a half months.
“They told me they were taking me to Waziristan for two months, where i would be released since they had struck a deal with my family,” he told the BBC Urdu. “Perhaps they wanted to ensure that i don’t resist during the journey.”
Ali Haider Gilani was running for a provincial assembly seat from Multan when he was kidnapped on May 9, 2013. One of his guards and his secretary were killed during his abduction.