Washington, D.C., February 12, 2020 -- Pakistani authorities should withdraw their threats to bring terrorism charges against journalist Gul Bukhari, and should stop harassing journalists at home and abroad, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
Yesterday, Pakistan’s Federal Investigation Agency issued a statement demanding that Bukhari, a Pakistani columnist based in the United Kingdom, appear in Pakistan for questioning about her alleged online propaganda against the government within 30 days or else the agency would file terrorism charges against her, according to the statement, which CPJ reviewed, and news reports.
The statement threatened that the agency would seek Bukhari’s extradition from the United Kingdom through Interpol, and could seize any property that Bukhari has in Pakistan.
Bukhari, speaking to CPJ via messaging app, said she had not been formally served with any papers, and said she did not know what sparked the agency’s threats. She said she has no plans to return to Pakistan in response to the summons. Bukhari, who is a dual British-Pakistani citizen, said she did not believe she would be extradited from the United Kingdom, but said she felt she would need to be cautious if she traveled to other countries.
She has recently written columns critical of Pakistan’s government for the Indian news websites The Quint and The Print, and frequently posts political commentary on her Twitter account, where she has 345,000 followers.
“Pakistani authorities should stop threatening Gul Bukhari and other journalists and critics for speaking out, whether at home or abroad,” said Steven Butler, CPJ’s Asia program coordinator. “Threatening to charge a journalist with terrorism and to confiscate her property over social media posts or published articles is absurd, and only reveals the government’s extreme insecurity.”
Bukhari said she was told by journalists in London that the Pakistani government was seeking to discover her address in the U.K., which she has kept secret, and feared that she could be subject to attack.
On February 2, Pakistani dissident and human right activist Ahmad Waqass Goraya was punched by men waiting outside his home in the Netherlands, which he blamed on Pakistani state agents, he told CPJ via messaging app. He said he suffered light injuries, and described the incident—attacked by one man, filmed by another—as similar to previous attacks on Pakistani critics in exile.
Exiled journalist Taha Siddiqui wrote in a Washington Post op-ed last year that he and other dissidents had been warned by U.S. officials of potential attacks against them. Waqass Goraya said he received a similar warning in 2018 from U.S. officials.
CPJ emailed Pakistan’s Federal Investigation Agency for comment, but did not immediately receive a reply. The agency has posted links to news stories about the summons on its official website.
In June 2018, Bukhari, who at the time was a commentator on the Urdu-language TV news channel Waqt News, was briefly abducted while en route to the station, CPJ reported at the time.