–US State Dept concerned over abduction, encourages ‘Pakistan to uphold citizens’ rights to peaceful assembly, expression’
Rights activist Gulalai Ismail’s father, Professor Muhammad Ismail, was sent on a 14-day remand a day after he was reportedly abducted by the law enforcement agencies outside the Peshawar High Court.
His counsel Fazl Khan told a local media outlet that the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) Peshawar had arrested his client after registering a First Information Report (FIR) against him under the Pakistan Electronic Crimes Act (Peca) 2016.
Khan said the FIA produced Prof Ismail before judicial magistrate Naveedullah, seeking physical remand in the case. However, the magistrate sent him on a 14-day judicial remand, rejecting the FIA request.
He added that they would soon file a bail application.
Earlier on Friday, Gulalai via Twitter said she had received information that her father had been brought to the court premises.
Earlier in the day, the US State Department had expressed concern over “reports of the continued harassment” of rights activist Gulalai Ismail’s family and her father’s alleged detention.
Assistant Secretary of State Alice G. Wells, who is also the in-charge of South Asia affairs at the US State Department, took to Twitter to “encourage Pakistan to uphold citizens’ rights to peaceful assembly, expression, and due process”.
On Thursday, Ismail tweeted that her father had been picked up from outside the Peshawar High Court (PHC) by “men wearing Malitia dress”.
My father has been picked up by men wearing Malitia dress from outside of Peshawar High Court an hour ago.
— Gulalai_Ismail (@Gulalai_Ismail) October 24, 2019
In a follow-up post shared today, Ismail criticised the “silence” of the mainstream Pakistani media following her father’s alleged abduction from the premises of the PHC.
“I’ve run out of words to condemn the criminal silence of media; it has become an ally of [the] military in imposing unannounced martial law,” she said.
Around 19 hours ago my father was abducted from the premises of Peshawar High court,but there’s a pin drop silence on mainstream Pakistani media. I’ve run out of words to condemn the criminal silence of media; it has become an ally of military in imposing unannounced martial law.
— Gulalai_Ismail (@Gulalai_Ismail) October 25, 2019
In September, Ismail – who is also a leader of an ethnic movement, Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM) – fled to the US, the New York Times had reported at the time.
“She is now staying with her sister in Brooklyn and has applied for political asylum in the United States,” the report had said.
However, the circumstances under which Ismail escaped the country remain mysterious to date as her passport had been confiscated by the interior ministry earlier in March this year after the Islamabad High Court (IHC) permitted it to do so, based on the recommendations by the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).
In November last year, the IHC was informed that the ISI recommended putting the rights activist’s name on the ECL for her alleged anti-state activities abroad.
When asked by the New York Times correspondent, Ismail did not disclose how she fled out of the country. “All I can tell is that I didn’t fly out of any airport,” she replied briefly.
On Oct 2, an additional district and sessions court in Islamabad issued non-bailable arrest warrants for Ismail in a case pertaining to maligning of state institutions.
The court ordered that if the suspect does not appear before it on Oct 21, the process to declare her a proclaimed offender could be initiated. On the day, Ismail failed to appear before the court as she was in the US.