Gunmen abduct candidate at Pakistani election rally

Ali Haider Gilani, son of former Pakistani prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, is running for a provincial assembly seat as a member of the Pakistan People's Party. He is pictured prior to his abduction by gunmen during a campaign event in Multan, May 9, 2013. STR/APR/Getty Images

ISLAMABAD Gunmen attacked an election rally in Pakistan's southern Punjab province on Thursday and abducted the son of a former prime minister, intensifying what has already been a violent run-up to Saturday's nationwide elections.

Ali Haider Gilani, the son of ex-premier Yousuf Raza Gilani from the Pakistan People's Party, is running for a provincial assembly seat in the district of Multan.

He was attending an election event in the city of Multan on Thursday — the last day of campaigning across Pakistan — when gunmen pulled up, started shooting, grabbed and threw him into a vehicle and drove off, officials and witnesses said.

A resident of Multan who attended the rally told a local TV station that the attackers first pulled up in a car and motorcycle outside the venue where the younger Gilani was meeting with a few hundred supporters.

When he came out of the building, two gunmen opened fire, killing at least one of the people in Gilani's entourage.

"One of the gunmen grabbed Haider who had blood splashed on his trousers," said Shehryar Ali in comments aired by Pakistani television broadcaster Geo News.

The former prime minister was not at the event when his son was taken.

Speaking to reporters at the family's home in Multan, the elder Gilani appeared shaken but composed. He said two of his son's guards were killed in the attack, but he did not know whether his son was wounded.

"His two guards were shielding him, and they died," said the former premier in comments aired on Pakistani television. "I urge all of my party supporters to remain peaceful and participate in the vote."

It was not immediately known who abducted Gilani or why.

Gilani's father served for roughly four years as prime minister but was forced out of office last summer by the Supreme Court after refusing to pursue a corruption case against President Asif Ali Zardari.

Saturday's election marks a historic milestone for Pakistan as one civilian government completes its term and prepares to hand off to another.

But the race has been marred by a string of violent attacks against candidates and election events.

Much of the violence has been at the hands of the Taliban, who have mainly targeted political parties that have supported military operations against the militants in northwestern Pakistan.

The younger Gilani is running as a candidate for the Pakistan People's Party, one of the three parties the Taliban has said it is focusing on.

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