The son of a former prime minister of Pakistan returned from Afghanistan Wednesday a day after he was rescued from al-Qaida-linked kidnappers in a military operation.
A special Pakistani aircraft brought Ali Haider Gilani back from Kabul and landed at the airport in the eastern city of Lahore where family members received him amid tight security.
Hundreds of supporters and relatives welcomed him at his family residence as he returned home after three years in captivity and showered rose petals on his car.
Pakistani televisions broadcast the images live during the journey of his convoy from the airport.
Gilani was abducted at gunpoint during an election rally in his southern home town of Multann three years ago before he was taken across the porous Afghan border.
FILE - Ali Haider Gilani speaks during a campaign meeting at a house on the outskirts of Multan, May 9, 2013, before his abduction by unidentified gunmen.
A joint U.S.-Afghan counterterrorism commando operation recovered Gilani from an al-Qaida compound in the Paktika province bordering Pakistan in a pre-dawn raid on Tuesday.
He was then transferred to the U.S.-controlled Bagram military base where he spent the night and underwent medical check-ups, according to U.S. and Afghan officials.
Afghan army chief General Qadam Shah Shaheemm spoke to reporters in Kabul Wednesday and gave details of the operation. "We planned a special operation carried out by the Afghan army special forces. In this operation a number of al-Qaida members who resisted were killed and fortunately it resulted to rescue our beloved young unharmed. Today we officially submit him to the people of Pakistan,” the general said.
Wearing a T-shirt with long hair and a heavy beard, Gilani briefly spoke to reporters before boarding the plane at Kabul airport. He thanked all those who fought for his release. “I really appreciate the Afghan government’s efforts and the Afghan forces efforts for their sacrifice for someone from another country. That shows the efforts of the Afghan government to bringing peace in our region,” Gilani said.
He also thanked U.S. forces for providing shelter, food and medical care. “Right now I am just looking forward to be reunited with my family and just getting back to normal life,” said Gilani, the son of Yusuf Raza Gilani who served as Pakistan’s prime minister from 2008 to 2012.
The joint military raid that rescued the ex-prime minister’s son was conducted under the authority of the U.S counter-terrorism mission in Afghanistan named Operation Freedom’s Sentinel.