Former Pakistani premier’s son Ali Haider Gilani has been freed and reunited with his family after three years of kidnap.
Mr Gilani, son of Yousaf Raza Gilani, was rescued during a counter-terror raid by US and Afghan forces in eastern Afghanistan.
Crowds of well-wishers dancing to drum beats greeted the 30-year-old’s arrival at his family’s home in Lahore in a black SUV strewn with pink rose petals. Later, up to ten goats were sacrificed in celebration.
Faiza Malik, a Punjabi politician, said she was “very emotional” after witnessing the scene inside the house”.
“Almost everyone had tears in their eyes after meeting Ali Gilani,” she said. “There was nobody brother, sister, uncles who was not weeping after hugging him.”
Gilani, who is a triplet, was accompanied by his brother Ali Kasim on the journey from Kabul in a plane that the Pakistani foreign ministry said was sent by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.
“I really appreciate the… Afghan forces efforts,” Gilani, “I would also like to thank the US forces which at the critical moments of my release provided me with shelter, food and medical care”.
Report said Gilani was rescued in the Giyan district of Paktika province by US Special Operations Forces and Afghan commandos.
The Afghan presidency said the raid targeted an Al-Qaeda cell.
He was kidnapped by militants in the outskirts of Multan in the central Pakistani province of Punjab on May 9, 2013, just two days before a contested national election in which he was campaigning.
In May last year, he was able to phone his father to tell him he was well.
At the ceremony in Kabul, Gilani also thanked Pakistani soldiers fighting in the tribal areas on the porous border who “forced my captors to flee from Pakistan to Afghanistan”.
The offensive has improved security in Pakistan but added to Afghan resentment of Islamabad, which it has long accused of supporting Taliban insurgents.
Gilani’s release allowed for a rare moment of cordiality between Pakistan and Afghanistan.
According to reports the raid was carried out under Operation Freedom’s Sentinel, the US mission focusing on counter-terrorism as well as training, advising and assisting Afghan troops.
Four “enemy combatants” were killed during the raid, it said.
The Pentagon was tight-lipped about events leading up to the raid, but said it occurred after US and Afghan forces had “identified terrorist activity”.
US Central Command spokesman Colonel Pat Ryder said, “There were terrorists where they struck and conducted this raid, and during that activity they were able to rescue Mr Gilani”.
US Defence Secretary Ashton Carter heralded the raid as evidence of progress by Afghanistan’s security services.