Islamabad: The son of Pakistan's ex-prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani was on Tuesday rescued from the clutches of Taliban militants in a joint raid by the US and Afghan forces in Afghanistan, three years after he was abducted from his hometown in Pakistan's Punjab province.
Ali Haider Gilani "has been recovered today in a joint operation carried out by the Afghan and US security forces in Ghazni, Afghanistan," Pakistan's foreign office said in a statement.
Afghan National Security Advisor Mohammad Hanif Atmar informed Sartaj Aziz, Advisor to the Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs, about the news in a telephone call, it said.
"Ali Haider Gilani's transfer to Pakistan is being arranged following required medical check-up," it said.
Haider, believed to be in his 30s, was kidnapped by gunmen in Multan in 2013 just two days before the May 11 general elections in which he was contesting.
Gilani, who served as the premier from 2008 to 2012, broke the news to a cheering crowd at a political rally in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, adding: "This rally has proved fortunate for me."
"When I was about to board the helicopter (to come) I received the information that my son Ali Haider Gilani, who was kidnapped three years ago, has been recovered."
Haider's brother Abdul Qadir Gilani said: "My whole family and I are extremely happy to hear good news of safe recovery of Haider."
"I am very happy and I have no words to express my joy, he added as he praised Afghan authorities and Pakistan's army chief Gen Raheel Sharif for his brother's successful recovery.
He told reporters in Multan that his brother will arrive from Afghanistan to Islamabad soon.
The development comes two months after the kidnapped son of slain Punjabi governor Salman Taseer, Shahbaz Taseer, was rescued by Pakistani forces in an operation near Quetta.
"Welcome back @haidergilani," Shahbaz tweeted, adding an image of the Pakistani flag.
The news of the rescue of Haider was broken by Pakistan People's Party Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari on Twitter.
"(Former) PM Gilani received a call from ambassador of Afghanistan. His son Ali Haider Gilani has been recovered in a successful operation," Bilawal said.
Pakistan's Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif issued a statement expressing pleasure over the rescue.
A media report quoted Afghan President Ashraf Ghani's
spokesman Zafar Hashemi as saying that Gilani was being taken to the Pakistani embassy in Kabul and that the raid took place in the Gayan district of Paktika province, not in Ghazni province as the Pakistani Foreign Office earlier reported.
NATO in a statement from Kabul also said that the rescue operation was conducted in "Gayan District of Paktika Province Afghanistan by US Special Operations Forces and Afghan Commandos in a partnered raid".
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, it said, adding: "Four enemy combatants were killed as a result of the operation."
The Afghan presidency said the raid had targeted an al Qaeda cell, and that Gilani had been sent to the Pakistani embassy in Kabul.
Haider, father's secular anti-Taliban Pakistan People's Party (PPP) has led several major offensives against militants, was leaving a street corner meeting outside the house of a supporter in Farrukh Town in his hometown of Multan in southern Afghanistan when the gunmen killed his two associates and abducted him.
"Haider was in the custody of al Qaeda. He has been recovered during an operation of special forces," reports here quoted an Afghan ambassador as saying.
He said Haider is in good health and he will be sent home through a special plane.
Hundreds of people, including a large number of PPP workers, gathered outside the residence of Gilani in Multan to celebrate Haider's release, dancing and passing around sweets.
The former premier had last year said that the abductors had contacted him and demanded ransom for his release. In a video message last year, Haider said the kidnappers were initially demanding Rs 2 billion for his release but later they had reduced the ransom amount to Rs 500 million.
His father had said he was ready to pay the ransom amount.
Shahbaz Taseer, who was abducted in August, 2011 some seven months after his father was killed by his own police guard Mumtaz Qadri, was recovered from Balochistan's Kuchlak area after nearly five years. Qadri was hanged a couple of months ago at Adiala Jail Rawalpindi after President Mamnoon Hussain rejected his mercy plea.