ISLAMABAD — The son of former Pakistan Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani has been taken hostage by gunmen during a political rally in his home area of Multan. It's the latest incident in what has been a violence-marred election campaign in the run up to the May 11 national assembly elections.
Amid a spray of gunfire, unidentified men on motorbikes Thursday sped up to the rally and kidnapped Ali Haider Gilani, who was addressing his supporters.
Gilani had just finished speaking to his People’s Party of Pakistan supporters in the eastern town when the attack took place. Party official Malik Aamir Dogar said three men then pushed Gilani into a car and drove away.
“When he finished the meeting, he go outside. Some people came on motorcycle and straight away they start the firing, and one guard is killed at the movement, and his private secretary is injured at the movement, and there are total of three people and they pulled out to Haider Gilani into the car and they go out,” said Dogar.
Candidates have been holding their final rallies before voters head to the polls to elect a new national assembly on May 11. Gilani was running for a provincial assembly seat in Multan.
Pakistan's President Asif Ali Zardari immediately condemned the attack, saying it was a “reprehensible act of a cowardly enemy.” Zardari called on the Election Commission and caretaker government to ensure the elections were not hijacked by extremist elements.
The kidnapping is the latest incident in what has turned out to be the most violent election campaign in Pakistan’s history.
Militants and extremists with differing objectives have attacked and killed candidates and party supporters in different areas of the country, targeting not only moderate and secular parties like the PPP, but also religious and nationalist parties.
Dogar, who called off his own political rally as a result of the attack, said the Taliban most likely was behind Gilani’s abduction.
Multan city Police Chief Ghulam Muhammad Dogar, who is not related to Malik Aamir Dogar, said the police were moving swiftly to find the captors.
He said police have sealed all the roads joining the district of Multan, and that district police officers are out in force. He also noted that they are making every effort to ensure that all vehicles crossing district boundaries are being checked.
Militant groups, such as the Sunni extremist Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and other pro-Taliban organizations, are known to operate in the southern Punjab area where Multan is located.
Despite the violence, elections are expected to go ahead as planned on May 11.