Pakistani candidate, son of former prime minister, abducted in run-up to election
ISLAMABAD — An especially violent spate of killings, kidnappings and bombings marred the run-up to Pakistan’s nationwide election, capped on Thursday by the abduction of the son of a former prime minister as he was rallying supporters on the last day of campaigning before the historic vote.
The election on Saturday marks the first time in Pakistan’s military coup-riddled history that a civilian government has finished its term and will hand over power to another. But the significance of the occasion has been overshadowed by the relentless violence targeting mostly liberal, secular parties.
More than 125 people have been killed in a series of bombings and shootings that can mostly be traced to Taliban terrorists who have vowed to disrupt a democratic process they view as un-Islamic. Separatists in the southwestern province of Baluchistan have attacked candidates and their supporters across the political spectrum.
There was no claim of responsibility for the abduction of Ali Haider Gilani, 25, but suspicion immediately fell on the Taliban. Gilani is running for a provincial assembly seat under the banner of the Pakistan People’s Party, one of three parties the Taliban has singled out for retribution because they supported military operations against Taliban terrorists in northwestern Pakistan.
His father, Yousuf Raza Gilani, is a longtime member of the PPP who served as prime minister while many of those military operations were carried out.
The younger Gilani was leaving an election event in the city of Multan in southern Punjab province when attackers pulled up in a car and motorcycle, sprayed the area with bullets, threw him into one of the vehicles and drove off, officials and witnesses said.
“One of the gunmen grabbed Haider, who had blood splashed on his trousers,” said rally participant Shehryar Ali in comments aired by Pakistani television broadcaster Geo News.
The former prime minister has been campaigning heavily in Multan to help his three sons, who are all running for elected office in the district, but he was not at the rally when his son was taken.
Appearing shaken, the elder Gilani said in televised comments that two bodyguards were killed in the attack, but he did not know whether his son was wounded.