Son of Pakistan ex-PM kidnapped two days before vote
MULTAN - Agence France-Presse
In this photograph taken on April 25, 2013, Pakistani workers print electoral posters of candidates for the upcoming parliamentary elections at a printing press in Rawalpindi. AFP photoGunmen on Thursday kidnapped a son of a former Pakistani prime minister canvassing for votes on the final day of campaigning for landmark elections, which have been marred by bloody attacks.
The family of Yousuf Raza Gilani is one of the most powerful in the central town of Multan and a key clan in the Pakistan People's Party (PPP), whose campaign for re-election has been dramatically curtailed by Taliban threats.
The Pakistani Taliban, which have dismissed the elections as unIslamic, say they have dispatched suicide bombers to mount attacks on polling day on Saturday, but there was no claim of responsibility for the abduction of Ali Haider Gilani.
Police said Haider's secretary was killed and one of his guards wounded, along with four other people, in the abduction on the outskirts of Multan.
"People came on a motorbike. They also had a car with them and they opened fire and abducted Yousuf Raza Gilani's son Ali Haider in a black Honda," police officer Khurram Shakur told reporters.
Haider is a provincial assembly candidate for the secular PPP and has two other brothers standing for the national assembly.
Gilani senior was disqualified after being sacked and indicted by the Supreme Court last year for refusing to reopen corruption cases against the president.
"We want our brother back tonight. If we don't get him, we will not allow elections to be held in our area," said elder son, Ali Musa.
Saturday'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 more than 110 people since mid-April.
The PPP has led the national government for the last five years but has run a lacklustre campaign, with its chairman, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, too young to contest the vote and kept hidden due to security threats.
Taliban leader Hakimullah Mehsud has personally ordered suicide bombings on polling day, one of his commanders told AFP in the northwest.
"The Taliban has dispatched several of fedayeen (suicide bombers) to carry attacks on election across Pakistan," he said on condition of anonymity.
AFP saw a copy of a letter apparently sent from Mehsud to Taliban spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan, mapping out the plan for bombings.
"You take care of attacks in Punjab and Sindh. I will take care of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Baluchistan," it said in reference to Pakistan's four provinces.
Pakistan has said it will deploy more than 600,000 security personnel on polling day, when the country's electorate of more than 86 million will directly elect a national and four regional assemblies.
The Taliban has singled out the PPP and its main coalition partners for threats.
As a result, former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and cricket legend Imran Khan have stolen the limelight and were Thursday competing to try to draw massive crowds at final rallies.
Sharif is a billionaire steel tycoon seeking a historic third term as prime minister as head of the centre-right Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N).
The charismatic Khan is a sporting hero who has also sought to capitalise on a sympathy vote after fracturing vertebrae in a fall at a rally on Tuesday, and will address supporters from his hospital bed.
While Sharif is considered most likely to win, some believe the PPP can still emerge the second largest party thanks to a rural vote bank.
Despite his electrifying campaign, a question mark hangs over how well Khan will do, considering he won only one seat in 2002.
Sharif will arrive at the 11th century Data Darbar sufi shrine in his political heartland in the city of Lahore at around 10:00 pm (1700 GMT) and address a final rally there, a party spokesman said. Another PML-N official said they were hoping to attract a crowd of more than 100,000 people.
Khan will address the final rally for his centre-right Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party in Islamabad by video link from his hospital bed.
Doctors have ordered the 60-year-old to remain immobile after he suffered fractured vertebrae and a broken rib on Tuesday when he fell from a lift raising him onto the stage at a rally in Lahore.
Campaigning ends officially at midnight, before the Muslim holy day Friday.
The election commission has warned that violations are punishable by disqualification and six months in prison.