Zee Media Bureau
Islamabad: Ali Haider Gilani, the son of former Pakistani prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, was kidnapped on Thursday in Pakistan's Punjab province by unidentified armed men.
The militants stormed Ali Haider’s street corner meeting with their guns blazing, killing his secretary and injuring four of his bodyguards.
The incident has intensified the tensions ahead of May 11 elections – parliamentary as well as for four provincial assemblies.
Ali Haider Gilani, who is running for a Provincial Assembly seat in the district of Multan, was whisked away in a black Honda City.
He was attending an election event in the town of Multan on Thursday — the last day of campaigning across Pakistan — when the gunmen pulled up, started shooting, grabbed and threw him into the vehicle and drove off, officials and witnesses said.
A resident of Multan who attended the rally told a local TV station that the attackers first pulled up in a car and motorcycle outside the venue where the younger Gilani was meeting with a few hundred supporters.
When he came out of the building, two gunmen opened fire, killing one of the people in Gilani's entourage.
"One of the gunmen grabbed Haider who had blood splashed on his trousers," said Shehryar Ali in comments aired by Pakistani television broadcaster Geo News.
It was not immediately known who abducted Gilani or why. However, it is suspected that Pakistani Taliban may be behind the abduction.
After the kidnapping, Gilani’s sons, Ali Musa and Abdul Qadir, were angry and in tears, reported Dawn.
“I will not allow elections to be held in my constituency at any cost. My brother is gone, how can I let polls take place in Multan,” an emotional Ali Musa Gilani told television channels.
The Punjab Police blocked all entry points of Multan as part of efforts to trace Ali Haider.
Former interior minister Rehman Malik told a news agency that he did not have any information about the involvement of the Pakistani Taliban in the kidnapping.
"However, I cannot rule out the hand of extremists in this incident," he said.
Gilani had earlier postponed a rally scheduled to be held in Multan today because of threats. "We cannot take the risk of holding rallies because of a security threat," he had said in a statement issued to the media a few days ago.
Saturday's election marks a historic milestone for Pakistan as one civilian government completes its term and prepares to hand off to another.
But the race has been marred by a string of violent attacks against candidates and election events.
Much of the violence has been at the hands of the Taliban, which has mainly targeted political parties that have supported military operations against the militants in northwestern Pakistan. Gilani is running as a candidate for the Pakistan People's Party, one of the three parties the Taliban has said it is focusing on.
Gilani's father served for roughly four years as prime minister but was forced out of office last summer by the Supreme Court after refusing to pursue a corruption case against President Asif Ali Zardari.
(With Agency inputs)