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Pakistan releases rights activist Gulalai Ismail

Agency | February 07, 2019 02:20 PM

ISLAMABAD:  Pashtun rights activist Gulalai Ismail has been released by the police here following her arrest earlier this week along with 17 others for holding a protest in the city, the police said.

The activist's father Professor Muhammad Ismail had earlier told Dawn.com that she was picked up from outside the National Press Club here on Tuesday while she was taking part in a protest against the controversial death of Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM) leader Arman Loni.

The PTM is a rights-based alliance that, besides calling for the de-mining of the former tribal areas and greater freedom of movement in the latter, insists on an end to the practices of extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, unlawful detentions, and for their practitioners to be held to account.

Islamabad Deputy Commissioner Hamza Shafqaat told DawnNewsTV that Gulalai Ismail was released late Wednesday but 17 other PTM activists remained under detention in the Adiala prison.

The arrests were described by rights groups as the latest round of repression of the PTM by Pakistani authorities.

Gulalai Ismail, a Pashtun and women's rights activist, was in 2017 awarded the "Reach all Women in War" Anna Politovskaya Award.

She and other PTM members were charged with violating Section 3 of the West Pakistan Maintenance of Public Order (MPO), which gives the government wide-ranging powers to arrest people suspected of acting in a manner "prejudicial to public safety or the maintenance of public order".

Her father had said that the activist shared her location with him via messaging service Whatsapp while being arrested and it showed she was being held at a police station.

"The police behaviour with us was extremely unhelpful. They did not let us meet her, and they were very rude," he said, adding that police officials later told him that his daughter had been transferred, but did not disclose her whereabouts.

In October last year, Gulalai Ismail was detained by airport officials in Islamabad following her return from London. She was later released on bail but her passport was withheld by airport officials.

The detention had been in connection with an FIR that the police had registered in August last year against 19 PTM leaders, including Gulalai, for their involvement in a public gathering in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province's Swabi district where the rights-based alliance's Manzoor Pashteen and Gulalai Ismail both addressed the crowd.

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