Gulalai Ismail takes a selfie with her parents during an event in Peshawar. File
A Pakistani court on Wednesday acquitted the parents of an exiled female human rights activist, a defence lawyer said, three years after the couple was arrested on charges of terror financing and sedition.
The 2019 arrests of Gulalai Ismail’s parents, Mohammad and Uzlifat Ismail, in the northwestern city of Peshawar, had drawn widespread condemnation. The US State Department also expressed concern over the arrests.
On Wednesday, an Anti-Terrorism Court (ATC) acquitted the couple, saying the prosecution failed to prove the charges, according to the couple’s lawyer, Shabbir Hussain Gigyan.
Mohammad Ismail is a teacher and a social activist. His daughter fled to the US in 2019 and she sought asylum there to avoid harassment by Pakistani security agencies over her investigations into alleged human rights abuses by soldiers.
Gulalai Ismail announced the court’s decision through his Twitter handle on Wednesday. “Peshawar anti-terrorism court acquitted my parents in the fake and malafide case of sedition, terrorism and conspiracy against the state after more than three years of harassment and innumerable court appearances,” pro-Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM) activist Gulalai Ismail stated. She also thanked those who stood with the family during the “difficult time.”
The Counter-Terrorism Department charged Gulalai and her family in a first information report (FIR) registered in July 2019.
In 2021, the ATC refused to indict Gulalai and her parents due to the lack of evidence in the case. It maintained that because no evidence was provided by the prosecution, the charge couldn’t be framed against the accused, and they were discharged.
The CTD later submitted the complete sheet and produced more documents, claiming that the Ismails had aided the terrorists that attacked the All Saints Church in Peshawar in 2013 and Imamia Masjid in Hayatabad in 2015.
Subsequently, in 2020 the court indicted Gulalai’s parents on sedition, inciting war against the state, and facilitation of terror attacks. They had pleaded not guilty and later faced trial.
In October 2019, the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) said it had arrested the father of a political activist for spreading hate of the state on social media.
Professor Muhammad Ismail was detained after leaving a court in Peshawar. In recent years, Pakistani activists and journalists have increasingly come under attack by the government and the security establishment, restricting the space for criticism and dissent.
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