Eminent Pakistani journalist known for dissent abducted, released hours later
Yet another Pakistani journalist, a vocal critic of Islamabad's military might, was abducted yesterday. Gul Bukhari reached home safely early this morning. Witnesses say kidnappers intercepted her on her way to work and dragged her away while others in "army-uniforms" stood guard. Bukhari has written several articles accusing the military and judiciary of overstepping their boundaries in the run-up to the July 25 general elections.
Bukhari was going to record a TV program on the Waqt news show when some pick-up trucks stopped her near the cantonment area in Lahore, colleagues said. Men in plainclothes then dragged her out of her vehicle and assaulted her driver, said Waqt producer Muhammad Gulsher. "They put a black mask on her face and took her," he added. The military hasn't commented yet.
Missing journalist unites voices on social media
During her disappearance, #BringBackGulBukhari trended on Twitter. "If (allegations of abduction are) true, this would be a most audacious attempt to silence a known critic. Is this Pakistan or Kim's North Korea or Sisi's Egypt?" said Syed Talat Hussain, a prominent journalist. Maryam Nawaz Sharif, daughter of former PM Nawaz Sharif, called the abduction "disturbing." "This is just cruel & worst kind of oppression. Sad day."
The Committee to Protect Journalists urges Bukhari's release
Not the first such case
Sadly, such disappearances aren't uncommon in Pakistan. Last October, Zeenat Shahzadi was found two years after she disappeared. She was last working on the case of a missing Indian citizen, Hamid Ansari, which ultimately led to security agencies admitting that Ansari was in their custody. Earlier this year, Taha Siddiqui, a prominent voice known for critiquing his country's government, narrowly escaped a kidnapping bid.
Five bloggers kidnapped, only four returned. Then they fled
Five Pakistani bloggers had gone missing for several weeks in 2017. Only four of them eventually returned. All four fled Pakistan. Two later opened up about being tortured by a state intelligence agency when they were being held captive.
The role of Pakistan's intel agency
Though the missing persons commission mostly blames non-state actors, Pakistan's ISI is widely believed to target journalist and activists. Thirty-four journalists were killed for their work during 2008-2014, Amnesty noted. The Human Rights Index recovered 4,557 bodies of suspected victims of enforced disappearances during 2009-2015. Laws like the Pakistan Protection Act, 2014 and the Pakistan Protection Ordinance extend unobstructed powers to law enforcement agencies.