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Prominent Gov’t Critic Threatened With Terrorism Charges In Pakistan

11 Feb 2020 Gandhara - RFE/RL

A Pakistan law enforcement agency has threatened to slap terrorism charges on one of the country’s most prominent government critics.

The counterterrorism wing of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) has asked Gul Bukhari, a columnist and democracy activist, to appear before an inquiry probing online propaganda against the government, national security organizations, and the judiciary.

“If she fails to appear [before the FIA inquiry], we will register a court case under PECA and the Anti-terrorism Act,” a February 11 statement by the FIA said while referring to the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act by its acronym. Global media watchdog Reporters Without Borders says the law is “often used by the authorities to silence journalists who dare to cross the regime's implicit red lines.”

The FIA, however, is threatening dire consequences for Bukhari.

“After obtaining court orders, extradition procedures will be employed against the accused,” the statement said. “Interpol will be requested to help in completing the legal procedures,” it added. “The court will be approached to forfeit all the moveable and immovable property of the accused.”

Bukhari, in her 50s, now lives in self-exile in Britain. She was briefly kidnapped by unknown gunmen in the eastern city of Lahore in June 2018. She emerged as a prominent critic of Pakistan’s powerful military after supporting former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s campaign for civilian supremacy following his sacking by the country’s Supreme Court for undeclared assets in July 2017.

Bukhari has used her large following on social media, Twitter in particular, to criticize the military for allegedly facilitating Prime Minister Imran Khan’s rise to power in the July 2018 election. She regularly wrote critical columns and regularly tweeted about the sporadic crackdown on the Pashtun Tahafuz Movement, a civil rights movement, and other instances of government highhandedness against journalists, activists, and politicians.

Government threats to Bukhari followed the February 2 attack on Ahmad Waqass Goraya. Two unidentified men attacked the exiled Pakistani blogger outside his house in the western Dutch city of Rotterdam.

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