Gunmen kidnapped a son of a former Pakistani prime minister yesterday, the final day of campaigning for landmark elections which the Pakistani Taliban have vowed to attack with suicide bombers.
Ali Haider Gilani was seized in a hail of gunfire on the outskirts of the city of Multan in Punjab Province. Police said his secretary was killed and five people wounded, including one of his guards.
“People came on a motorbike. They also had a car with them and they opened fire and abducted [former Pakistani prime minister] Yousuf Raza Gilani’s son, Ali Haider, in a black Honda,” police officer Khurram Shakur told reporters.
Gilani’s family is one of the most powerful in Multan and a key clan in the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), whose campaign for re-election has been dramatically curtailed by threats from the Pakistani Taliban.
The insurgents, who have dismissed the elections as unIslamic, say they have dispatched suicide bombers to mount attacks on polling day tomorrow.
There was no claim of responsibility for the abduction of Ali Haider Gilani, a provincial assembly candidate for the secular PPP whose two other brothers are standing for the national assembly.
Yousuf Raza Gilani was disqualified after being sacked and indicted by the Supreme Court last year for refusing to reopen corruption cases against the president.
“We are not being provided with a conducive atmosphere,” he told reporters in the capital, Islamabad, after the kidnapping, calling on PPP activists to remain “quiet and peaceful.”
Tomorrow’s vote will be a democratic milestone in a country ruled for half its history by the military, but the campaign has been marred by Taliban threats and attacks, which have killed at least 116 people since the middle of last month.
In the southwestern province of Baluchistan yesterday, gunmen opened fire at a candidate for the Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N) party, which is tipped to win the election, killing one of his supporters and wounding two others.
Regional assembly candidate Akbar Askani escaped unharmed from the attack in the town of Mand, provincial home secretary Akbar Hussain Durrani said.
In the northwest tribal district, a bomb killed one person and wounded six others at a gathering of the right-wing Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam party in the troubled district of North Waziristan, officials said.
There were no immediate claims of responsibility for any of yesterday’s attacks, but Taliban leader Hakimullah Mehsud has personally ordered suicide bombings on polling day, one of his commanders told reporters.
“The Taliban has dispatched several fedayeen [suicide bombers] to carry attacks on election across Pakistan,” he said on condition of anonymity.
Reporters saw a copy of a letter apparently sent from Mehsud to Taliban spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan, mapping out the nationwide plan for the bombings.
Pakistan has said it will deploy more than 600,000 security personnel on polling day, when the electorate of more than 86 million will choose a national parliament and four regional assemblies.