Anti-military British-Pakistani journalist briefly abducted in Lahore
A prominent British-Pakistani journalist and activist, known for criticising the powerful military, was briefly abducted by unidentified men in Lahore, but was later released as netizens took to social media blaming intelligence agencies for her forced disappearance.
Gul Bukhari, 52, was on her way to the Waqt TV studio for a show when she was intercepted and abducted on Sherpao Bridge in Lahore’s Cantonment area at around 11 pm on Tuesday night.
Her abduction came several hours after the military warned that it was monitoring those ‘criticising Pakistan’.
The driver of the Waqt TV cab told police that two persons came out of a double-cabin and asked Bukhari to get into their vehicle. “When she refused they bundled her up in the vehicle and sped away,” he said, adding that her abductors did not say anything to him.
Later, Bukhari’s family registered a missing report at a local police station. As news of Bukhari’s abduction broke out, several people took to social media blaming intelligence agencies for her forced disappearance for her extreme views about the Pakistani army.
Some three hours later, Bukhari’s family confirmed that she has returned home. It, however, did not talk about her abductors.
Hammad, a police official, said police had reached Bukhari’s house but she refused to record her statement at the moment. “We will visit her again for her statement,” he said.
The British high commission in Pakistan on Wednesday expressed concern over Bukhari’s abduction, saying it is reaching out to her for consular assistance.
“We are very concerned at reports of Gul Bukhari’s abduction,” the British high commission said in a tweet. “As a dual Pakistani-British national, the British high commission is reaching out with consular assistance.”
Mark Field, who is the minister of state for Asia and the Pacific at the UK Foreign Office, expressed relief that Bukhari had been released and reiterated the British government’s commitment to freedom of expression.
Meanwhile, Bukhari thanked her family, colleagues, civil society activists, journalists and others “for coming together in solidarity in concern for my well being last night”.
“I am well, and would request privacy at this stage,” she said.
Reacting sharply on Twitter, PML-N leader and daughter of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, Maryam Nawaz, expressed her shock.
“Extremely disturbing and worrisome news of Gul Bukhari’s abduction. This is just cruel & worst kind of oppression. A sad day,” she said.
Bukhari is a vocal critic of the Pakistan army. She is presently a contributing Op-Ed writer at The Nation and appears as an analyst on Waqt TV show ‘2vs2’.
In a separate incident, journalist Asad Kharal of BOL TV was allegedly attacked by unidentified men near the Lahore airport.
Kheral later posted pictures of his blood-soaked jacket and blood-stained face on his Twitter account. “I was attacked by some persons wearing masks. I am at hospital,” he tweeted.
Senior police officer Bilal Zafar said, “Kharal has been tortured by unidentified persons when he was coming out of the Lahore airport.”
He said a case will be registered on the statement of Kheral.
Kheral’s colleagues, however, blamed the PML-N for the alleged attack. “Since Kheral is a strong critic of PML-N, its involvement cannot be ruled out in the attack,” Director News BOL TV Babar Dogar said.
The incidents took place amid a growing crackdown on free speech in Pakistan as the general elections are due in July 25 in the country.