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Women’s rights activist who highlighted atrocities by Pak military escapes to US

ANI | Updated: Sep 20, 2019 08:37 IST

Washington [USA], Sept 20 (ANI): In yet another example exposing Human Rights violation by Pakistan, Gulalai Ismail, a women’s rights activist who was accused of treason by Islamabad has escaped to America.

Ismail took the baton to highlight incidents of sexual abuse by Pakistani security forces. Following her crusade against the atrocities committed on country’s women, she was slapped with treason charges.

The New York Times reported that the 32-year old Ismail managed to slip through the dragnet last month and is now staying with her sister in Brooklyn. Ismail has also applied for political asylum in the USA.

“I didn’t fly out of any airport,” she was quoted as saying and added that she can’t say anything more than that since her “exit story” will put many lives at risk.

In a country like Pakistan, where criticism of the military is frowned upon, Ismail campaigned vigorously for women’s rights, bringing attention to rapes, disappearances and other abuses that she and many others say have been committed by the country's security forces.

Human rights defenders believe that the charges of treason against her were false and that she was being targeted for pointing out the blatant abuses committed by the Pakistani military.

The story of her escape or being chased out of her home country could not have come at a worse time for Pakistan which is seeking to gain some international traction, which has so far eluded it, on Kashmir issue.

“I will do everything I can to support Gulalai’s asylum request. It is clear that her life would be in danger if she were to return to Pakistan,” Senator Charles Schumer, Democrat of New York was quoted as saying.

Ismail became a fugitive in May in her country, soon after she posted accusations on social media against Pakistani soldiers. In the month of January, in her posts on Facebook and Twitter, she had accused soldiers of raping and sexually abusing Pakistani women on Facebook and Twitter.

The women right activist also took part in the ethnic Pashtun movement. The movement headed by Manzoor Pashteen has now become another headache for the Pakistani Army, whose heavy-handed techniques to crush the movement has failed miserably.

She was barred by the Pakistani government from leaving the country. 

Ismail spent the next three months wandering across different cities in Pakistan and relied on a small group of her friends. She stayed indoor most of the times.

Even though she has been able to escape to America, she is still worried about her parents and people who helped her during the days of hiding.

Ismail who is now staying with her sister in Brooklyn has started a research and advocacy group, Voices for Peace and Democracy, and is also thinking of law school.

Pakistan based media outlet Dawn reported that in November last year, the Islamabad High Court was informed that Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) had recommended putting Ismail’s name on the Exit Control List (ECL) for her alleged anti-state activities abroad.

However, the Court had ordered the removal of her name from the list following a petition by Ismail challenging the government’s decision to put her name on the ECL.

Bu the court had allowed the interior ministry to take appropriate action, including confiscation of her passport, in the light of recommendations made by ISI, reported Dawn.

The incident has once again brought to limelight the power enjoyed by “invisible forces” or “establishment” – names given to the all-powerful military in Pakistan. The military in the country is infamous for using coercive and undemocratic methods to ensure that its hold on the country's polity. (ANI)

 

 

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