Zawahiri’s relatives ....
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’.”