Authorities in Pakistan have again been accused of harassing peaceful human rights defenders, following the detention of civil society activist Professor Mohammad Ismail.
Professor Ismail, a human rights defender and Secretary of NGOs Forum Pakistan, is also the father of Humanists International Board member and fellow human rights activist Gulalai Ismail.
He was reported to have been “abducted” by security services outside court yesterday, following a court appointment. He had also been due to attend a hospital appointment later the same day, but his whereabouts were unknown overnight.
Today it is reported that a judge has ordered a “pre-trial detention” on charges brought in a new First Information Report (FIR). “The complaint is regarding … hate speech and fake information against government institutions on Facebook and Twitter,” the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) is quoted as saying. Senior FIA official Mirwais Niaz said Ismail had been brought before a court and remanded in custody for 14 days.
Gulalai was hunted by the authorities earlier this year on spurious charges. She had criticized police for mishandling of a child murder case and was a leading figure in the Pashtun human rights movement, which protest alleged abuses committed by the army in the region. Her family was previously harassed on trumped up “terrorism” charges while the security services were looking for Gulalai, and she was forced to flee to the United States.
For Humanists International, Director of Communications & Campaigns Bob Churchill comments:
“The persecution of human rights defenders in Pakistan is out of control. Let us be absolutely one-hundred percent clear: There is no basis for these spurious charges. They are nothing but a means of persecution against peaceful human rights defenders.
“What their detractors call “anti-state activities” or “terrorism” is simply and wholly the participation of activists in human rights campaigns. Their work is transparent and open, unlike the activities of the security services. Gulalai Ismail has worked for women’s rights and peace. Mohammad Ismail is a champion of civil society. None of these people have done anything wrong. They have exercised free expression in a just cause.
“Meanwhile the government continues to allow this persecution through the security services and judiciary. This latest attack through the FIR only shows that the FIR system, through which groups and individuals are able to cause massive disruption to the lives of innocent campaigners based on spurious claims, is not fit for purpose. The government must act to ensure that Mohammad Ismail is freed, and to crackdown on both the non-state actors and the security services who are persecuting human rights defenders.”