Zawahiri’s rel­a­tives ....

Pakistan Observer - - IN­TER­NA­TIONAL -

of be­ing chained,” he said.

Gi­lani said he was handed over to the Sa­jna Group of the Tehreek-i-Tal­iban Pak­istan af­ter a drone strike in Datta Khel and kept there for 14 months, dur­ing which he “did not once see the sky”.

“I re­mem­ber the date, day and month even to­day be­cause I used to reg­u­larly write a di­ary which they would al­ways burn. They also gave me books to read.”

He said three things were im­por­tant in or­der for him to re­main sane: “To hold onto the be­lief that Al­lah will help, re­main­ing hope­ful that one day i will be free and third pa­tience”.

“I had writ­ten on the wall of my room ‘vic­tory comes with pa­tience’ and would read it every day.”

Gi­lani said his cap­tors once ar­ranged a ra­dio for him when he re­quested them to let him watch a Pak­istan vs South Africa World Cup match and he was “ec­static” when Pak­istan won.

“The Tal­iban like cricket,” he added.

As the Pak­istan Army be­gan its Shawal of­fen­sive, the Tal­iban fled across the bor­der to Afghanistan’s Pak­tika prov­ince and took Gi­lani with them.

Gi­lani said he had seen Pak­istan Army air strikes in Datta Khel fol­low­ing the killing of Pun­jab home min­is­ter Colonel (retd) Shuja Khan­zada.

“The sounds were fright­en­ing. Their tar­get used to be cor­rect but these com­pounds were of­ten empty as the mil­i­tants would es­cape in ad­vance,” he said.

He said the mil­i­tants’ de­mands were un­re­al­is­tic, rang­ing from US forces’ com­plete de­par­ture from Afghanistan, re­lease of pris­on­ers and mon­e­tary pay­ment “but money has never been an is­sue for them”.

Gi­lani said his cap­tors al­lowed him to talk to his par­ents a to­tal of two times in as many years. Af­ter spend­ing over two months in Afghanistan, on May 9 this year, Gi­lani’s cap­tors told him they had to va­cate the com­pound be­cause they an­tic­i­pated an Amer­i­can air raid.

“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.

“I said ‘My name is Ali Haider Gi­lani I’m the son of the for­mer prime min­is­ter. They didn’t be­lieve me at first but later they con­firmed I was telling the truth,” he said.

Gi­lani said that he found out later that the raid had tar­geted the Al Qaeda man ac­com­pa­ny­ing him.

“I was just lucky to be there,” he said, speak­ing about his res­cue.

“It didn’t sink in till I was in the he­li­copter, the guy [from the US Forces] said ‘Mr Gi­lani, you’re go­ing home’.”

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