Pakistan: elder NGO worker recovering from COVID-19 arrested, his house raided (Update)Event
- Initial Date
- Feb 2, 2021
- Event Description
On 2 February 2021, human rights defender Muhammad Ismail was arrested at the Anti-Terrorism Court-III in Peshawar, following the cancellation of his interim pre-arrest bail in a case lodged by the Counter-Terrorism Department. The First Information Report (FIR) brought against the defender charges him under Sections 11-N, 124-A, 120-B of the Pakistan Penal Code, which relate to sedition and criminal conspiracy, and 7(g)(i) of the Anti-terrorism Act of 1997. These charges carry heavy prison sentences. It is believed that Muhammad Ismail is currently in the custody of the Counter-Terrorism Department.
Muhammed Ismail is the Secretary-General of the Pakistan NGO Forum (PNF), an umbrella body of civil society organisations (CSOs) in Pakistan. He has been critical of human rights violations in the country, particularly the ill-treatment of his daughter, human rights defender Gulalai Ismail.
Muhammad Ismail has been the target of ongoing police and judicial harassment for over two years. The human rights defender’s prosecution is a reprisal for his work, and the human rights work of his daughter Gulalai Ismail – an outspoken critic of human rights abuses by Pakistani authorities. Gulalai Ismail was forced to flee Pakistan in September 2019 due to threats to her safety. Ever since, her family and colleagues in Pakistan have been targetted. Multiple FIRs have been filed against Muhammad Ismail and his wife Uzlifat Ismail, including on anti-terror charges. In October 2019 Muhammad Ismail was abducted by unidentified men from outside the Peshawar High Court. He was later found in the custody of the Federal Investigation Agency’s Cyber Crimes Unit. Muhammad Ismail and his wife have been placed on an exit control list preventing them from leaving Pakistan.
Despite being released on bail in at least one case, authorities have continued to to target him. The State has consistently objected to bail and sought to file new charges against the defender in an attempt to further harass him, despite his ill health. Muhammad Ismail contracted COVID-19 in late 2020 and has not fully recovered. He requires constant care and medical supervision, neither of which will be available in an overcrowded jail.
Front Line Defenders, along with other human rights organisations, has previously condemned the targetting of Muhammad Ismail. Front Line Defenders urges the authorities in Pakistan to immediately drop all charges and unconditionally release Muhammad Ismail, as it believes that the human rights defender is being targeted solely as a result of his legitimate and peaceful work in the defence of human rights. It urges the authorities to remove all restrictions on the free movement of Muhammad Ismail and his wife Uzlifat Ismail, and cease all further forms of harassment against the defender, as it is believed that these measures constitute a direct transgression of his rights.
- Impact of Event
- Gender of HRD
- (Arbitrary) Arrest and Detention
- Denial Fair Trial
- Judicial Harassment
- Rights Concerned
- Right to fair trial
- Right to health
- Right to healthy and safe environment
- Right to liberty and security
- Family of HRD
- NGO staff
- Monitoring Status
- Event Location
- Summary for Publications
On 2 February 2021, Muhammad Ismail, NGO worker and father of prominent minority rights WHRD Gulalai Ismail, was arrested despite still recovering from COVID-19, following the cancellation of its pre-arrest bail, in relation to a false terrorism charges filed against him by the Anti-Terrorism Court-III Peshawar, Pakistan. In the next days, his houses were raided by the police who brought the HRD with them and humiliated him.