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Pakistan
12.02.21
Urgent Interventions

Pakistan: Arbitrary arrest of human rights defender Muhammad Ismail

URGENT APPEAL - THE OBSERVATORY

New information
PAK 002 / 0719 / OBS 062.4
Arbitrary arrest /
Judicial harassment
Pakistan
February 12, 2021

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a partnership of FIDH and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), has received new information and requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in Pakistan.

New information:

The Observatory has been informed about the arbitrary arrest of Muhammad Ismail, an ethnic Pashtun, a prominent and vocal human rights activist and the coordinator of the Pakistan NGOs Forum. Mr. Ismail is the father of Gulalai Ismail, a women’s rights defender, founder of the Youth Peace Network and co-founder and Chairperson of the NGO Aware Girls[1]. Gulalai Ismail has led a campaign against extrajudicial killings in Pakistan and was awarded the 2017 Anna Politkovskaya Award by the organisation Reach all Women in War (RAW).

Photo Ismail

On February 1, 2021, Muhammad Ismail was arrested in the Anti-Terrorism Court in Peshawar while he was attending his bail confirmation hearing for a First Information Report (FIR) lodged on July 6, 2019 under the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA) against him and his wife, Ms. Uzlifat Ismail. While Ms. Uzlifat Ismail’s bail was confirmed, Mr. Ismail was handcuffed and taken away. The judge of the Anti-Terrorism Court cancelled an anticipatory bail[2] request that had been granted to Muhammad Ismail in response to the above-mentioned FIR.

On February 3, 2021, Mr. Ismail was taken to a Counter Terrorism Department (CTD) police station in Peshawar to be held on a three-day physical remand.

On February 4, 2021, Uzlifat Ismail went to the CTD police station in Peshawar to hand over medicine and clothes for Muhammad Ismail. At her arrival there, she was told that Mr. Ismail was not in the police station and she was not given any information about his whereabouts.

Hours later, around 2:30pm, CTD police officers raided Mr. and Ms. Ismail’s house in Marghuz Village of Swabi District, Pakhtunkhwa Province, without any search warrant and in the presence of Muhammad Ismail, who appeared handcuffed and chained. Police officers searched the house and allegedly planted papers and receipts they had brought with them into Mr. and Ms. Ismail’s files, took pictures of the documents, made their report and took the documents with them. The police officers did not allow villagers to go near the house or observe the raid.

On February 5, 2021, CTD police officers raided the house of Mr. and Ms. Ismail’s family in Islamabad without a search warrant and in the presence of Muhammad Ismail, who appeared once again chained. They searched the house and confiscated around seven files belonging to Aware Girls.

On February 6, 2021, Mr. Ismail was presented before the Anti-Terrorism Court in Peshawar. The CTD asked for an extension of the physical remand for another fourteen days, which the judge denied, and Mr. Ismail was transferred to Peshawar Central Jail. On February 8, 2021, Mr. Ismail’s lawyer applied for bail before the Peshawar High Court. At the time of publication of this urgent appeal, the application has not yet been heard.

The Observatory recalls that on July 2, 2020, a case against Gulalai Ismail and her parents, Muhammad Ismail and Uzlifat Ismail, was dismissed as the Prosecutor was not able to submit any evidence related to the charges filed against them to the court in the one year the case was open. This case was following an investigation opened after a FIR was lodged against them on July 6, 2019 over charges of “financial support from terrorist organisations”. Nevertheless, two months later, the authorities filed the same case with additional charges of terrorism, sedition, and conspiracy against the State. On September 30, 2020, the Anti-Terrorism Court in Peshawar heard the case and charged Muhammad Ismail, Uzlifat Ismail and Gulalai Ismail under Sections 11-N, 124-A, and 120-B of the Pakistan Penal Code, which relate to sedition and conspiracy, and 7(g)(i) of the Anti-Terrorism Act of 1997. These charges carry long prison sentences. Muhammad and Uzlifat Ismail pleaded not guilty.

The Observatory further recalls that Gulalai Ismail and her relatives have faced repeated acts of harassment and intimidation by security forces in retaliation for her human rights work since 2019, which forced Gulalai Ismail to go into hiding and then to escape Pakistan after she was put on an allegedly state-sanctioned kill list. As part of this harassment, Muhammad Ismail was abducted on October 24, 2019, by unidentified men in black clothes outside the High Court of Peshawar and was temporarily detained at the Cybercrime Department of the Federal Investigating Agency (FIA). Muhammad Ismail was accused of “broaden hate speech and fake information against Government Institutions of Pakistan” through his Facebook and Twitter accounts. He was then detained in Peshawar jail, where he remained until November 25, 2019, when he was granted conditional bail. Mr. Muhammad Ismail is still facing charges of “cybercrime” and his bank accounts are frozen. Moreover, Muhammad and Uzlifat Ismail’s names still figure on Pakistan’s Exit Control List (ECL), which prevents them from leaving the country and Uzlifat Ismail’s passport application was rejected. In addition, Mr. and Ms. Ismail’s home has been under surveillance for the past two years.

The Observatory expresses its utmost concern over the arbitrary arrest of Muhammad Ismail, which only seems to be only aimed at punishing him for his and Gulalai Ismail’s legitimate human rights activities. The Observatory calls on the Pakistani authorities to immediately and unconditionally release Muhammad Ismail and to put an end to all acts of harassment, including at the judicial level, against him, Gulalai Ismail, Uzlifat Ismail, and their relatives.

Actions requested:

Please write to the authorities in Pakistan, urging them to:

i. Guarantee, in all circumstances, the physical integrity and psychological well-being of Muhammad Ismail, Gulalai Ismail, Uzlifat Ismail, and their relatives, as well as all human rights defenders in Pakistan;

ii. Immediately and unconditionally release Muhammad Ismail;

iii. Put an end to all acts of harassment, including at the judicial level, against Muhammad Ismail, Gulalai Ismail, Uzlifat Ismail, and their relatives, including the lifting of administrative restrictions, and ensure that they are able to carry out their legitimate activities without any hindrance and fear of reprisals in all circumstances.

Addresses:

  • Mr. Arif Alvi, President of Pakistan; Email: secretary@president.gov.pk
  • Mr. Imran Khan, Prime Minister of Pakistan, Minister in Charge for Interior and Narcotics Control; Email: info@pmo.gov.pk
  • Mr. Ijaz Shah, Minister of State for Interior, Email: interior.complaintcell@gmail.com
  • Dr. Shireen Mazari, Minister of Human Rights of Pakistan, Email: minister@mohr.gov.pk, secretary@mohr.gov.pk ; Twitter: @ShireenMazari1 / @mohrpakistan
  • Ambassador Farukh Amil, Permanent Representative to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland; Email: mission.pakistan@ties.itu.int

Please also write to the diplomatic mission or embassy of Pakistan located in your country.

***

Paris-Geneva, February 12, 2021

Kindly inform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of this appeal in your reply.

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (the Observatory) was created in 1997 by FIDH and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT). The objective of this programme is to prevent or remedy situations of repression against human rights defenders. FIDH and OMCT are both members of ProtectDefenders.eu, the European Union Human Rights Defenders Mechanism implemented by international civil society.

To contact the Observatory, call the emergency line:

• E-mail: Appeals@fidh-omct.org

• Tel FIDH: + 33 (0) 1 43 55 25 18

• Tel OMCT: + 41 22 809 49 39

[1] Aware Girls is an NGO aiming at strengthening the leadership of young people, especially women and girls, and enabling them to act as agents of change for women empowerment and peace building.

[2] Anticipatory bail, otherwise known as pre-arrest bail, is an extraordinary relief provision in Pakistani law, enabling defendants to request the court to grant bail in anticipation of arrest under non-bailable charges, under the condition that the defendant will cooperate in the investigation. This provision is interim and requires confirmation by the court.

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