Says he was kidnapped by Sajna group to secure release of Al-Qaeda operatives, not ransom; Taliban oppose Punjabi factions, Pakhtun nationalism is replacing jihadi mindset; Jamaat-ul-Ahrar chief Khorasani on Indian payroll, Fazlullah in deal with India; US soldiers avoid drone strikes where families, children live; Al-Qaeda has sleeper cells in southern Punjab, its Subcontinent chapter has headquarters in Karachi
MULTAN: Ali Haider Gilani has revealed that the Afghan chapter of Al-Qaeda had been fully alerted about the US strike carried out on May 9.
The militants informed him, Ali Haider said, that the US airstrike was expected during night and the Al-Qaeda operatives shifted him to another hideout, which ended up in his release through the US security forces.
He said the Taliban’s jihad movement had been turned into nationalism directed against Punjab and they were strongly opposing the Punjabi factions. “The Pakhtun nationalism is replacing the jihadist mindset and becoming more popular among Taliban.”
Jamaat-ul-Ahrar chief Omer Khalid Khorasani was working on Indian payroll, while Mullah Fazlullah had contracted a deal of mutual protection with India. However, Fazlullah was not receiving money from India, Ali Haider said.
In the first formal chat held at Gilani House on Wednesday evening, he said he was taking counsel from his legal experts to challenge the PP-200 general elections held in 2013 despite his abduction. “I was wounded and abducted but the Election Commission continued holding election in the constituency. I am reviewing the legal grounds to challenge the election held in the absence of a candidate,” he said.
Ali Haider said during the clash, a US soldier ordered him to stop while drones were still hovering over in the sky.
“Later, Cobra helicopters appeared from the other direction and beamed light transmitting my features to the Bagram Airbase. I introduced myself and the soldiers got instruction from the airbase. At last, I was identified as the son of Pakistan’s former prime minister. My saviour US soldier was identified as George Flexure,” Ali Haider said while sitting in a couch.
He said the US soldiers were very careful about children and women, adding that drone strikes were avoided at locations where families and children resided. “The US policy of winning hearts and minds has been proving a successful exercise.”
Explaining the reasons behind his abduction, Ali Haider said he was kidnapped to ensure release of some high-profile Al-Qaeda operatives, not ransom. The Khan Said Sajna group operatives of Punjabi origin abducted him, dropped two of their colleagues near Kabirwala and brought him to Faisalabad.
According to Ali Haider, Al-Qaeda had planned his abduction and assigned Khan Said Sajna group with the task. At first, they planned to abduct Ali Musa Gilani, then Abdul Qadir Gilani, but failed due to their security. Finally, he was considered an easy target and kidnapped.
Ali Haider says he was later shifted to North Waziristan after one-and-half month. He was in Faisalabad when Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah disclosed that his kidnappers had been identified.
He remained in the custody Sajna group for 15 months in North Waziristan. Khan Said was frequently visiting Faisalabad and the group members promised that he would soon be released.
Ali Haider, who is to write a book on his ordeal, said Khan Said was very caring and he even played cricket with him, adding that they treated him humanly and served good food.
“I was kept in North Waziristan for a long time and shifted just 40 days before the release to Giyan district of Paktika province. I spend the last 40 days of my captivity in Afghanistan.
At times, Ali Haider was kept in caves while he also took refuge in vehicles amid the continued threat of missile strike as drones flew in the sky. The weather in the area was very pleasant as compared to hot climate of Multan.
Ali Haider disclosed that none of the Taliban factions was targeted in drone strikes but they did not spare Al-Qaeda operatives in Afghanistan.
He said Al-Qaeda had an advanced media cell equipped with latest technology and a computerised system where all news television channels were available on different screens. “They regularly watch and like Hamid Mir and Salim Safi.”
According to Ali Haider, Al-Qaeda has unending financial resources as its members use quality imported articles, sweets and other eatables while the Taliban are in a very poor condition. The Afghan Taliban pay Rs 10,000 to every member compared to Rs 20,000 by Al-Qaeda.
Ali Haider backed enforcement of Shariah in Pakistan, describing it as the will of each and every Pakistani.
When asked he belongs to the PPP which had struggled for socialism, he listed socialism and communism as outdated ideologies and said capitalism would soon demise. Ali Haider said he did not agree with the Taliban’s tactics for Islamisation but fully supported Shariah.
“At least 80 per cent Pakistanis want Islamisation and I will be a key supporter of imposing Shariah. But firstly, there is a need to develop an Islamic character,” Ali Haider opined. He said Al-Qaeda had sleeper cells in southern Punjab, claiming that Al-Qaeda in Subcontinent had established headquarters in Karachi.
Responding to a query about his future plans, Ali Haider said the offices of MNA and MPA did not have much importance and he would do some extraordinary job, as he pledged to serve the people with commitment and dedication.