Armed assailants kidnapped the son of former prime minister Yousaf Raza Gilani on Thursday, while also killing two Pakistan Peoples Party workers in the attack.
The incident took place at a PPP corner meeting in Farrukhabad, near Matital Road in Multan, where the former premier’s son, Ali Haider Gilani, was scheduled to address.
According to the Central Police Officer (CPO), Multan, eight armed men riding a black Honda City car and two 125 cc motorcycles, opened fire at a corner meeting in Farrukh Town, an area falling in Ali Haider’s PP-200 constituency.
Witnesses said a bullet also hit Ali Haider and that he was bleeding when the kidnappers dragged him into the car.
The attack killed Ali Haider’s secretary, Muhammad Muhiuddin, and his private guard, Amin Ahmed.
Following the incident, the police sealed all entry and exit points into the city, and Inspector General (IG) of Punjab police summoned a report from RPO Multan. The police also arrested five suspects, two of whom they claim have important information related to the case.
While they have not yet released any official information about the interrogations, sources claim the former premier’s son has been shifted to sub-district Kabeerwaala, a LeJ stronghold.
Though no group has yet claimed responsibility for the attack, Yousaf Raza Gilani and other family members confirmed that Ali Haider had been receiving death and kidnapping threats from Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) and Sipah-e-Sahaba.
The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) when contacted, refused to comment on the abduction incident.
“I do not want to comment [on the incident],” TTP spokesperson Ehsanullah Ehsan said. “We do not know as to who has kidnapped him, and why and how he was kidnapped.”
Following the incident, PPP workers started to protest but Yousaf Raza Gilani urged his supporters to remain peaceful and to pray for his son’s return.
Speaking to the media, Ali Haider’s brother, Ali Musa Gilani, said PPP will not allow elections to take place in any constituency of Multan if his brother is not traced by Thursday night.
Musa also said that his party members were not allowed to carry weapons, or keep security guards as per the Election Commission of Pakistan’s (ECP) code of conduct.
“There was no security and no weapons. They [the gunmen] came and easily took him [Ali Haider] away,” an impassioned Musa said.
Abdul Qadir Gilani, Ali Haider’s eldest brother, also shared the same opinion, saying his party was deprived of all security measures and were receiving direct threats from the Taliban.
However, later in the day Yousaf Raza Gilani ruled out the possibility of boycotting elections. “Elections are a national obligation and we will not boycott them,” he said.
Shah Mehmood Qureshi lashes out
Condemning Ali Haider’s abduction, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) vice-chairman Shah Mahmood Qureshi said the ECP should take notice of Ali Musa’s statements.
The PTI vice-chairman told The Express Tribune that Gilani’s sons were threatening other candidates and this was irresponsible of them.
“PTI considers the statement a direct threat to all other candidates contesting elections, especially those from Multan,” said Qureshi, who is contesting NA-148 against Musa.
Meanwhile, President Asif Ali Zardari and PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari condemned the abduction of Ali Haider Gilani and demanded measures to be taken for his immediate recovery.
When queried on Twitter on providing security to candidates, Punjab Chief Minister, Najam Sethi pointed to the logistical impossibility of providing adequate security to more than 5,000 election candidates.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 10th, 2013.