10/29/2019, 11.05
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Human rights activists call for end to revenge attacks on dissidents

by Shafique Khokhar

Prof. Mohammad Ismail was taken in broad daylight in Peshawar. The daughter Gulalai Ismail is a famous dissident activist, winner of the Anna Politkovskaya Award for campaigns against religious extremism in Pakistan. Man’s abduction is an act of "revenge". Detention "without trial is a violation of human rights".

Lahore (AsiaNews) - Human rights defenders condemn the arrest of Gulalai Ismail's father, a famous Pakistani activist and dissident, exiled in the United States for the persecution he suffered. Speaking to AsiaNews Taimur Rehman, political activist and leader of Pakistan Mazdoor Kissan Party, which defends the rights of workers in the agricultural sector, protests: "It is clear that this is revenge. The family suffers because of what is reported about the daughter”.

Bilal Warraich, a lawyer who worked on the defense of other Pakistani activists who disappeared in the hands of security forces, says: "It is not enough that Gulalai was forced to flee. Now even her elderly father has been kidnapped in broad daylight."

On October 24 Prof. Mohammad Ismail, the activist's father, was stopped by the Pakistani police at the Peshawar High Court exit, where he had just attended the hearing of his trial. Both he and his daughter criticize the violence perpetrated by the military against the Pashtun ethnic group. After an initial denial, the Islamabad authorities confirmed the arrest. Mohammad Faisal, spokesman for the Foreign Ministry, admitted that the man is detained for a case of cybercrime "as required by our laws".

Gulalai Ismail, 33, is a supporter of the Pashtun Protection Movement (Ptm). In 2017 she won the Anna Politkovskaya Award for campaigns against religious extremism in Pakistan. She is accused of "activity against the state" for having participated in demonstrations in support of the Pashtun movement in August 2018. Arrested in November of the same year, she was released on bail. Since September 2018 she lives in the United States, where she obtained political asylum.

The news of the arrest of Prof. Ismail also provoked the reaction of the United States, which offers protection to the activist. Alice Wells, assistant to the US Secretary of State for South and Central Asia, expressed great concern about "the ongoing harassment of Gulalai Ismail's family".

Rehman blames Khyber Pakhtunkhwa KP Actions (in aid of civil power) Ordinance, 2019 for the detention of Prof. Mohammad Ismail.  The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government last month promulgated the ordinance that assigns wide-ranging powers to the authorised officers and armed forces to detain a suspect until the continuation of action in aid of civil power by the armed forces. The armed forces have also been empowered to occupy any property with the approval of the provincial government. The activist emphasizes, “instead of restoring civilian power and following due process of law, the hybrid state opted for full dominance of our society. We are facing an extreme situation where neither civil society nor religious minorities can initiate any public movement".

Bilal Warraich recalls that in 2017 some bloggers were detained "guilty of having expressed critical opinions against the state. As a lawyer for one of them, I learned of unspeakable forms of torture. " Then he criticizes the abuse of the cybercrime law: "It is used by invisible state agencies as a pretext to interrogate and torture dissenting voices".

For Dil Nawaz, theologian and activist, "It is highly unfortunate that freedom of expression and speech have been curtailed. Professor Ismail is a respectable academic and if there are any charges against him he should be given opportunity to defend himself freely in court of law. Without trial any detention is against human rights of citizens of Pakistan".

Naveed Walter, president of Human Rights Focus Pakistan, adds: "The situation of human rights defenders in Pakistan is so unsatisfactory. They are targeted by state and non-state actors. Those who work for women, minorities and marginalized are the most targeted. Activists and NGOs must be able to work in freedom to make equal rights, democratic norms and values ​​of peace prevail ”.


(Kamran Chaudhry collaborated)


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