Son of former Pakistan prime minister kidnapped at election rally

Yousaf Raza Gilani's son, Ali Haider, who is running for parliament, was at a small gathering of supporters when gunmen struck

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The Independent Online

The son of Pakistan’s former Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani was abducted by unknown gunmen at an election rally in the central city of Multan.

The kidnapping happened on the final day of Pakistan's election campaign as fears rise of militant violence marring polling day on Saturday after weeks of a bloody campaign.

Ali Haider Gilani, who is running for a provincial parliamentary seat for the outgoing ruling Pakistan People's Party (PPP), was at a small gathering of supporters when gunmen arrived, began shooting, snatched the candidate, hurled him into their vehicle and drove off, said friends of the Gilani family in Multan.

In recent weeks, militants have continuously targeted candidates from secular parties as nearly 100 people have been killed in one of Pakistan's bloodiest election campaigns. Before the campaign, the Taliban threatened that they would target members of the PPP, and their recent coalition allies the Karachi-based Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) and the secular Pashtun Awami National Party.

No one has stepped forward to claim responsibility for the kidnapping.

A day earlier, the Pakistani Taliban's spokesman issued a statement saying that they would unleash a series of attacks on election day, and even target foreign observers and foreign journalists covering the election. The threat of violence has forced the secular parties to reduce their profile to small, local efforts while rightwing parties have been able to campaign openly.

The kidnapping sparked fears that the election could be thrown into doubt. Members of the secular parties have said that the Taliban's threats constitute “pre-poll rigging” and compromise the ballot since they have not been provided adequate security. Ali Musa Gilani, a fellow triplet of Ali Haider's and also a parliamentary candidate, threatened that no election will take place in Multan if his brother isn't recovered by the end of the night.

Mr Gilani, the former prime minister, eased those fears and urged the election to go ahead as scheduled.