Ashfaq Kayani
Ashfaq KayaniReuters

A few weeks ago, the Pakistan government negotiated the successful release of former army chief Gen Ashfaq Pervez Kayani's abducted son in exchange for two daughters of al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri and another woman, according to media reports. There has, however, been no formal news of Kayani's son even being abducted. 

The exchange was initially reported by the Long War Journal, a project of the Foundation for Defence of Democracies, that sourced it's information through the 20th edition of Al-Masra magazine — affiliated with the al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) — published in late August. However the Al Masra report, which did not name Kayani's son, could not be independently confirmed.

"If the jihadist organisation is merely boasting, then that is noteworthy. But if al-Qaeda did manage to kidnap Kayani's son and force the Pakistani government's hand, then this indicates Zawahiri's men have a disturbingly long reach inside of Pakistan," the Long War Journal report said.

"Although retired, Kayani is one of the most powerful figures in the Pakistani military and intelligence establishment, which has long sponsored jihadis, including the al-Qaeda-allied Taliban," the report added.

The report claimed that a series of tweets posted in mid-August revealed jihadists had accused the Pakistan Army of detaining Zawahiri's daughters, as well as the daughter of Sheikh Murjan Salem al Jawhari, as part of its "infidel" war on the mujahideen. The Twitter account has now been suspended.

"The Twitter user, who is likely an al-Qaeda media operative, further claimed al-Qaeda was left with two ways to deal with the situation. First, al-Qaeda needed to take 'revenge' on the supposed spy. Second, Allah 'enabled the mujahideen' to detain the son of the Pakistan Army commander in order to exchange him 'for the sisters'.

"He included a picture of Kayani to emphasise that this is the Pakistani leader he meant. Al-Qaeda's account referred to Kayani as if he is active, even though he has been retired for nearly three years," the report said, adding that it was unclear if the purported exchange took place in late July or early August.

The report went on to suggest that even though the army had initially "refused" the proposed exchange, they eventually agreed after lengthy negotiations. Zawahiri's daughters and the other woman, along with their children, were eventually returned to Egypt.