Daughter: Pakistan arrests rights activist in sedition case

A prominent Pakistani rights activist living in exile says her father was arrested in the northwestern city of Peshawar after a court denied him bail on charges of terror financing and sedition

PESHAWAR, Pakistan -- A Pakistani teacher, social worker and activist was arrested on Wednesday in the northwestern city of Peshawar, after a court denied him bail on charges of terror financing and sedition, his daughter said.

Gulalai Ismail tweeted that her father, Mohammad Ismail, was taken into custody in a long-standing case that also charges her and her mother since 2019. That year, she fled to the U.S. and sought asylum there to avoid harassment by Pakistani security agencies because of her investigations into alleged human rights abuses by soldiers.

Pakistani activists and journalists have increasingly come under attack by the government and the security establishments, restricting the space for criticism and dissent.

According to Gulalai Ismail, the local court in Peshawar granted the provincial counter-terrorism authorities permission to hold her father for questioning for three days. Her mother, meanwhile, was granted bail.

The Ismail family have denied the charges against them.

One of the allegations claims a donation to the daughter's children's charity, Aware Girls, was spent on cars that were used as suicide bombs. Aware Girls fights discrimination and abuse of girls and women.

The donation came from a group known as Asia Safe Abortion Partnership, which aims to assist young girls with safe abortions. It has an office in neighboring India, Pakistan's archrival, but operates in a number of countries in Asia.

Gulalai Ismail has been a longtime advocate of women’s and girls’ rights, particularly in Pakistan’s conservative northwest.

Before fleeing Pakistan, she published a report about alleged abuses by Pakistani troops in the former tribal regions. The military denied the allegations at the time. However, criticism of the military or its intelligence agency can result in threats, intimidation, sedition charges and in some cases, being picked up without any warning.