For the first time after being abducted by the Al-Qaeda back in 2013, Ali Haider Gilani (son of Ex-Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani) opened up about his time in captivity. After being a prisoner for three years, he was recovered in a joint operation by America and Afghanistan on May 10, 2016. While talking to the BBC in a heart-rending interview, he spoke about the painful experiences he went through during his captivity.
Ali Haider Gilani said that the abduction was aimed directly at his father
“My father was prime minister when their leader Osama Bin Laden was killed. He also started an operation in South Waziristan. They told me they wanted to take revenge,” he said.
He further said that he wasn’t physically tortured but they used to torture him psychologically by telling him that he doesn’t belong to Muslim community.
“They’d tell me you‘re not a Muslim, your father is not a Muslim, you’ll go to hell, your family isn’t doing anything to help you. I was told to remain silent otherwise I would be shot.”
He told the BBC how he was kidnapped right after conducting a jalsa at Multan
“After conducting the jalsa, I was walking away when someone grabbed me by the neck and shoved me so hard I fell onto the ground. I was on the ground still when one of the kidnappers rammed his gun onto my head, causing it to bleed.”
He went on to talk about how he used to write a diary on his own but his captors burned every single piece of it and how he’d lived in a single room for 2 years. He said that he had not felt the sun on his skin for over a year, that he missed looking at the sky.
“I was kept in a small room, not allowed to see the sky for one year and two months. I forgot how the sun felt on my skin. I prayed a lot. I used to think of my son and say I have to survive for him.”
Gilani told how he battled his thoughts every single day.
“There were drones, tanks, mortar and jet strikes. Drones have a horrible sound, it’s like a huge bee constantly hovering over you. It wasn’t just one drone, there were three, four or five at one time roaming day and night.”
He told BBC that he was being watched closely by An al-Qaeda operative all time who accompanied him wherever he went. He further added that once he was given a radio to listen to Pakistan’s cricket match.
“One day I asked them for the radio to listen to a cricket match. It was the World Cup and Pakistan won a match against South Africa,” he said.
Gilani narrated that Al-Qaeda wanted to have some women from the Al-Zawahiri household released by using him.
He disclosed how he managed to escape when the Taliban were attacked by the US forces
“We left at night and were walking for three or four hours when I heard helicopters then gunshots,” he said.
“I fell to the ground. Then a voice told me to take my shirt off, put my hands in the air and someone came and tied my hands.”
He told BBC that when he told the officials that he is the son of the former prime minister of Pakistan Yousuf Raza Gillani, no one believed him. At the time when he was kidnapped, his son was a toddler. He used to miss his son and his family so much during the captivity. He told BBC he was shocked to see his son all grown up.
“First, I hugged my mother. She was crying and I said ‘it’s over I’m back now.’ Then I met my son. He’d changed so much, I didn’t recognize him but he did [recognize me].”
Nowadays Mr. Gilani is writing a book about his captivity and how he passed his days living at a single place for 2 years. When asked about politics his reply was-
“It’s in my blood.”
Part 1 of the interview:
Part 2 of the interview: