Pakistan army: No, we did not abduct activist

Gul Bukhari
TARGETED? Gul Bukhari

UK CAMPAIGNER FREED AFTER DETENTION PAKISTAN’S army has denied abducting a British- Pakistani activist known for criticising the military, in an incident last week. Gul Bukhari, 52, was detained for several hours by unknown men in Lahore late last Tuesday (5), one day after the military held a press conference warning that it is monitoring citizens who criticise Pakistan. She was released early last Wednesday (6). Bukhari is known for advocating human rights online and is also a prominent columnist whose articles are often critical of the military and its policies. When news of her abduction broke it caused a furore, with widespread calls for her release and fingers broadly pointed at the military. The British High Commission expressed “concern” at the incident as activists called on the army, which is the most powerful institution in Pakistan and has ruled the country for nearly half its 70-year history, to tolerate dissent. “(The) army is not behind the abduction of Gul Bukhari,” major general Asif Ghafoor, chief military spokesman, told reporters late last Friday (8). “We actually want a thorough investigation in this case,” he said. The military routinely says it is not involved in enforced disappearances, but the statement was a rare on-the-record denial. During a wide-ranging press conference last Monday that appeared to address the mounting criticism, the military issued a veiled warning to online critics, saying it has the capacity to monitor social media accounts. Ghafoor briefly flashed an image on screen showing what appeared to be Twitter handles and names, including of at least one prominent journalist, but refused to elaborate further, fuelling the outcry over free speech. Late last Friday he said they “did not intend to implicate journalists”. After her release, Bukhari, herself the daughter of an army general, said on Twitter she was well…

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