The recent abduction and eventual release of British-Pakistani activist Gul Bukhari and the attack on journalist Assad Kharral are attacks on freedom of expression, said Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, the scion of the Bhutto family who now heads the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP).
Taking to microblogging platform Twitter, Zardari said those responsible for the attacks should be held accountable.
Zardari wrote: “The abduction of Gul Bukhari & assault of Assad Kharal are unacceptable attacks on freedom of expression. These attacks must be investigated and those responsible held accountable. Censored Democracy na manzoor.”
His views were echoed by noted personalities in the Pakistani media industry. Journalist and author Hamid Mir wrote: “You can differ with the views of a journalist you can even criticise him but no one has the right to attack any journalist or peaceful citizen this attack on @AsadKharal is condemnable the injuries on the body of Kharal are reflecting the injuries of media freedom in Pakistan.”
Journalist and news anchor Nasim Zehra tweeted: “What the hell is happening? Just saw this pretty bloody attack on Asad Kharal. Totally condemnable. Catch attackers and kidnappers fast.”
On Tuesday, broadcast journalist Kharal was beaten by masked men in Lahore. According to reports, Kharal’s car was intercepted by masked men who physically assaulted him.
The same day, Bukhari, an activist known for her criticism of Pakistan’s military, was abducted by unknown men in Lahore.
These abductions come just a day after Pakistan’s military said it was monitoring citizens who criticize the country.
Bukhari was on her way to a television news station when she was stopped, her husband Ali Nadir told AFP.
“She left around 10:40 pm for Waqt News but was apparently picked up on the way. It seems to be plainclothes people but we don’t have any more info,” he said in a WhatsApp message.
He later confirmed that she had been freed.
Bukhari too released a statement shortly after her release, saying: “I would like to express my deep gratitude and love to my friends, family, colleagues & supporters in civil society, journalism and politics across the board, for coming together in solidarity in concern for my well being last night,” read the statement.
“I am well, and would request privacy at this stage.”