Pakistan: Arbitrary detention and judicial harassment of Ms. Gulalai Ismail’s father

Urgent Appeal

New information
PAK 002 / 0719 / OBS 62.2
Arbitrary detention /
Judicial harassment
October 25, 2019

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 by reliable sources about the arbitrary detention and judicial harassment of Mr. Muhammad Ismail, father of Ms. Gulalai Ismail, and the threats and harassment against her family members. Ms. Ismail, an ethnic Pashtun and woman rights defender, is the founder of the Youth Peace Network and co-founder and Chairperson of the Aware Girls NGO, an organisation aiming at strengthening the leadership of young people, especially women and girls, enabling them to act as agents of change for women empowerment and peace building. Ms. Ismail has led a campaign against extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances in Pakistan and was awarded the 2017 Anna Politkovskaya Award by the organization Reach all Women in War (RAW).

According to the information received, on October 25, 2019, following several hours during which he was disappeared Mr. Muhammad Ismail was presented to the magistrate of Peshawar Session Court, which ordered a 14 days pre-trial detention against him on the basis of the 2016 Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act (PECA)’s Articles 10 (“cyber terrorism”) and 11 (“electronic forgery”). The First Information Report (FIR) accuses Mr. Muhmmad Ismail of “broaden hate speech and fake information against Government Institutions of Pakistan” through his Facebook and Twitter accounts. Mr. Muhammad Ismail had access to his lawyer during the hearing. Mr. Muhammad Ismail was sent to Peshawar jail, where he is now detained.

On October 24, 2019, after being abducted by unidentified men outside of Peshawar High Court (see background information), Mr. Muhammad Ismail was taken to the Cybercrime department of the Federal Investigating Agency (FIA), where he was temporarily detained.

Mr. Muhammad Ismail suffers from multiple health issues and had an appointment to Shifa Hospital Islamabad the day he was abducted.

On October 26, 2019, Mr. Muhammad Ismail and his wife, Ms. Gulalai Ismail’s mother, are due to appear before Peshawar High Court in the framework of the investigation regarding the FIR that was lodged against them on July 12, 2019 (see background information) over charges of “financial support from terrorist organisations”.

The Observatory condemns the arbitrary detention and judicial harassment of Mr. Muhammad Ismail, as well the ongoing harassment against Ms. Gulalai Ismail’s relatives, which seem to be only aimed at punishing Ms. Ismail for her human rights work. The Observatory calls on the Pakistani authorities to immediately release Mr. Muhammad Ismail’s, and to put an end to any act of harassment, including at the judicial level, against him and Ms. Gulalai Ismail’s other relatives.

Background information:

Since October 2018, Ms. Gulalai Ismail has been placed on Pakistan’s Exit Control List and prevented from leaving the country.

On February 5, 2019, Ms. Ismail and other Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM) [1] members were arrested outside the National Press Club in Islamabad while they were taking part in a protest to denounce the killing of Mr. Ibrahim Arman Loni, a teacher and PTM core committee member in Baluchistan Province. Ms. Ismail was first taken to G9 Women’s Police Station in Islamabad before being moved to an unknown location, until her release on February 6, 2019 [2].

Ms. Gulalai Ismail was forced into hiding after facing charges of “defamation” (Section 500 of the Penal Code), “sedition” (Section 124-A of the Penal Code), “promoting enmity between different groups” (Section 153-A of the Penal Code) and other charges under Section 6/7 of Pakistan’s Anti-Terrorism Act. The charges stemmed from a speech she gave at a rally in Islamabad, in which she called for justice in the case of a 10-year-old girl who was raped and murdered in May 2019 and denounced the authorities’ inaction to bring the perpetrator(s) to justice [3].

Moreover, Ms. Ismail’s relatives have faced repeated acts of harassment and intimidation by security forces since two First Information Reports (FIRs) were filed against her by the police in Islamabad on May 22 and 23, 2019. For instance, on May 24 at dawn, the police raided her family home in Islamabad and threatened her family members. The family’s residence was again raided on May 27. Again, on July 4, 2019, a large group of men in civilian clothes raided three times Ms. Ismail’s house in Islamabad and threatened to harm Ms. Ismail’s younger sister if the former did not cease her work as an activist. Security forces also took away the family’s driver, interrogated him, and subjected him to physical acts of ill-treatment for about eight hours before being released.

On July 12, 2019, a First Information Report (FIR) was lodged against Ms. Ismail and her parents by the Counter-Terrorism Department in Peshawar, accusing them of having received “financial support from terrorist organizations”. Ms. Gulalai Ismail’s parents received a Bail Before Arrest (BBA) from the court and as a condition of that BBA, must present themselves to the court every week. Without any official notification, Ms. Ismail’s parents have also been placed on the Exit Control List, and the immigration services refused to issue a new passport to Ms. Ismail’s mother.

During the night of October 17 to 18, 2019, armed police officers – some in police uniform, and some in plain clothes with their faces hidden- knocked at Ms. Gulalai Ismail parents’ house asking for Mr. Muhammad Ismail to come out of the house, which he refused to do. The police officers stayed outside the house for an hour before leaving.

On October 24, 2019, Mr. Muhammad Ismail was abducted by unidentified men in black clothes outside of the High Court of Peshawar, where he was due to present himself as a bail condition. His fate and whereabouts remained unknown for many hours.

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 Ms. Gulalai Ismail, her father as well as other relatives, and that of all human rights defenders in Pakistan;

ii. Give Mr. Muhammad Ismail an immediate access to medical attention;

iii. Immediately and unconditionally release Mr. Muhammad Ismail;

iv. Put an end to all acts of harassment - including at the judicial level and restrictions on the freedom of movement - against Ms. Gulalai Ismail’s relatives and all human rights defenders in Pakistan, and ensure that they are able to carry out their legitimate activities without any hindrance and fear of reprisals in all circumstances;
v. Conform to the provisions of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on December 9, 1998, in particular with Articles 1 and 12.2;
vi. Ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights standards and international instruments ratified by Pakistan.


• Mr. Arif Alvi, President of Pakistan; Fax: +92 51 920 8479; Email:
• Mr. Imran Khan, Prime Minister of Pakistan, Minister in Charge for Interior and Narcotics Control; Fax: +92 51 922 04 04; Email:
• Mr. Ijaz Shah, Minister of State for Interior, Fax: +92 51 920 2624, Email:
• Ambassador Farukh Amil, Permanent Representative to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland; Fax:022 734 80 85; Email:

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

Paris-Geneva, October 25, 2019

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, the European Union Human Rights Defenders Mechanism implemented by international civil society.

To contact the Observatory, call the emergency line:
• E-mail:
• Tel and fax FIDH: + 33 (0) 1 43 55 25 18 / +33 1 43 55 18 80
• Tel and fax OMCT + 41 22 809 49 39 / + 41 22 809 49 29

[1] PTM is an alliance that calls for the de-mining of the former tribal areas, greater freedom of movement in these areas, an end to extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances and arbitrary detentions, and for the accountability of perpetrators of such acts within a truth and reconciliation framework.
[2] See Observatory Urgent Appeal PAK 001 / 0219 / OBS 015, published on February 14, 2019.
[3] On May 15, 2019, 10-year old girl Farishta went missing near her home in Islamabad. Her parents reported her disappearance the same day, but it took four days for the police to register a FIR on the disappearance, and a proper search was not launched. Her body was finally found in a forest on May 21, 2019, leading to public outcry.

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