News Update

Father of Pakistan rights activist who fled to U.S. bailed

November 26, 2019

By Jibran Ahmad

PESHAWAR, Pakistan (Reuters) – The father of a prominent Pakistani activist who fled to the United States was released on bail on Tuesday, his family and lawyers said, a month after he was arrested for allegedly spreading hate of the state on social media.

Muhammad Ismail was detained on Oct. 24 after leaving a court in the northwestern city of Peshawar. He is accused of uploading material to his Facebook page “prejudicial to the interests of the State institutions”, according to a court document seen by Reuters.

His daughter, 32-year-old Gulalai Ismail, is a prominent member of a group campaigning for the rights of the ethnic Pashtun minority, and is a vocal critic of Pakistan’s military. She went into hiding earlier this year and surfaced in the United States in September.

Ismail was freed after posting bail of 100,000 Pakistani rupees ($645), according to a court document.

He was not reachable for comment on Tuesday, but has previously denied the allegations and said during his bail hearing on Monday he had been trapped by a “well-planned conspiracy”, without elaborating further.

His daughter said in a tweet on Tuesday she would not give up her activism despite the arrest.

“(If) the purpose is to coerce me into silence then it won’t happen. Neither I would, nor my parents will let me,” she said.

A top U.S. government official had previously expressed concern about harassment faced by Ismail’s family from unknown parties, and rights group Amnesty International has called the charges against her father “trumped up”.

“While we welcome this news, all charges against him must be dropped and his release should be unconditional,” the group said in a statement on Tuesday.

Gulalai Ismail’s group, the Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM), has clashed with the military, which has accused it of disloyalty and being funded by Pakistan’s regional rivals Afghanistan and India.

The PTM has gained considerable support to the alarm of the military, which is wary of Pashtun nationalism in the strategically sensitive Pashtun lands along the Afghan border.

(Reporting by Jibran Ahmad in Peshawar and Alasdair Pal in Islamabad; Editing by Alex Richardson)

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