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Pakistan told to end harassment of activist and family

Muhammad Ismail, the father of women's rights activist Gulalai Ismail, has been detained since 2019

UCA News reporter

UCA News reporter

Published: October 19, 2021 04:48 AM GMT

Updated: October 19, 2021 04:57 AM GMT

Pakistan told to end harassment of activist and family

Gulalai Ismail, winner of the Prize for Conflict Prevention for promoting women's issues and equality in Pakistan, speaks during the award ceremony of the Jacques Chirac Foundation in Paris on Nov. 24, 2016. (Photo: AFP)

Pakistani authorities must immediately end all harassment of activist Muhammad Ismail and his family and comply with recommendations from a United Nations working group, says CIVICUS, the global civil society alliance.

“Ismail’s treatment highlights the repressive environment for activists in the country,” said Josef Benedict, Asia Pacific researcher for CIVICUS, while calling for an independent investigation into the abuses against the rights defender and father of women’s rights activist Gulalai Ismail.

Muhammad Ismail has been detained and subjected to judicial harassment since 2019 for speaking against government institutions. He has been facing allegations of cybercrime besides trumped-up charges related to sedition and conspiracy, as well as under the anti-terrorism law, CIVICUS says.

“The conclusion by the UN working group echoes concerns raised by CIVICUS around the arbitrary detention of Muhammad Ismail and the ongoing persecution against him,” Benedict said while underling that human rights defenders in Pakistan should not be harassed and intimidated for doing their work and exercising their fundamental freedoms.

The UN working group, in its opinion adopted last month, concluded that Muhammad Ismail was targeted for his human rights work and that his detention was in contravention of international human rights standards, particularly the Universal Human Rights Declaration and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, of which Pakistan is a state party.

It also noted with concern the charges reportedly brought against Muhammad Ismail’s spouse, as well as actions taken against his daughter, for her advocacy in support of the Pashtun community.

The decision by the UN working group shows clearly that my father was arrested for speaking up and supporting my activism

The UN working group held that the Pakistani human rights defender has been denied his right to a fair trial without undue delay and was detained on discriminatory grounds — that is, on the basis of his work, his political or other opinions, and his birth and family ties, contrary to international statutes.

It also called on the government to provide a remedy without further delay through an official communication but has received no reply so far.

“The decision by the UN working group shows clearly that my father was arrested for speaking up and supporting my activism. He has suffered tremendously over the last two years for this.  I urge the authorities to drop all charges against my parents unconditionally. Speaking out for human rights is not a crime” said Gulalai Ismail.

Muhammad Ismail is one of the faces of CIVICUS’ international #StandAsMyWitness campaign calling for the release of imprisoned human rights defenders across the world.

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The CIVICUS Monitor rates civic space in Pakistan as “repressed.”

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