ALERT: Pakistani Civil Society Leader Faces Detention and Travel Ban

October 12, 2018

The World Movement is greatly concerned to learn about the arbitrary arrest of and travel ban imposed on Pakistani activist Gulalai Ismail. Ismail was detained at Islamabad International Airport upon returning from London on October 12, 2018. She was released on interim bail, but has been placed on the Exit Control List banning her from leaving the country. The harassment of Ismail is related to her role as an active supporter of the Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM), which works to raise awareness of enforced disappearances, extrajudicial killings, and discrimination against Pakistan’s Pashtun ethnic minority.

In a WhatsApp audio message to friends immediately preceding her arrest, Ismail noted: “This is an attack on civic freedoms. This is an attack on our liberty to speak out. This is an attack on our freedom of speech.” Over the last year, the Pakistani government has escalated its repression of the Pashtun minority, increasingly targeting PTM members with detention, travel bans, and charges of “sedition and cybercrimes.” After Ismail participated in a public gathering organized by the PTM on August 12, 2018, she was among 19 individuals who were charged with multiple offences, including rioting and removing the country’s flag from a building.

Gulalai Ismail is the cofounder and chairperson of Aware Girls, an organization that aims to empower and educate young women on rights and leadership in Pakistan. Through Aware Girls, Ismail is an active participant in the World Movement network. In 2013, she received the National Endowment for Democracy’s Democracy Award and in 2017 was awarded the Anna Politkovskaya Reach All Women in WAR Award. Join us in calling on the government of Pakistan to cease harassment of Gulalai Ismail and other members of the PTM and to respect their right to freedom of expression.