June 5, 2018 / 9:27 PM / in 5 months

Pakistani journalist critical of army abducted in Lahore -colleagues

LAHORE, Pakistan, June 6 (Reuters) - A Pakistani journalist and rights activist who openly criticised the military and its alleged meddling in politics was abducted late on Tuesday, two of her colleagues said, and one suggested she was detained by the military.

The journalist, Gul Bukhari, who is a dual Pakistani-British national, has been an unusually vocal critic of Pakistan’s powerful military on social media in the run-up to the July 25 general election. She has also defended Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party founder Nawaz Sharif, who has clashed with the military.

Bukhari was on her way to record a TV programme on the late-night Waqt news show when her vehicle was intercepted in the cantonment area of the eastern city of Lahore and she was taken away, her husband and two media colleagues said.

“Gul Bukhari has been arrested. A sensitive institution arrested her from Cantt Area,” tweeted Muhammad Gulsher, who is a producer on the Waqt news programme where Bukhari appears as a guest.

“Sensitive institution” is a commonly used term in Pakistan to refer to the military or its Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) spy agency.

A second Waqt media source as well as Bukhari’s husband, Ali Nadir, confirmed to Reuters that she was missing.

“Some unknown guys on a double cab truck intercepted her car,” said Nadir, saying that the incident occurred at 10:40 p.m. (1840 GMT).

“Since then I have been calling her cellphone and tried WhatsApp calls, but nothing is responding,” added Nadir, who said his wife was a dual national.

Pakistan’s military did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Waqt driver who was ferrying Bukhari to the TV station witnessed the incident, according to the second Waqt source.

Rights groups have denounced the kidnappings of several social media activists over the past year as attempts to intimidate and silence critics of Pakistan’s security establishment.

Last year, five Pakistani bloggers went missing for several weeks before four of them were released. All four fled abroad and at least two afterwards told media that they were tortured by a state intelligence agency during their disappearance.

The military has staunchly denied playing a role in any enforced disappearances, as has the civilian government.

In the run-up to the polls, media houses have complained of growing censorship by the military establishment.

In the past six months, Bukhari, who has 69,000 Twitter followers, has penned several critical articles for the Nation newspaper about Pakistan’s military and the judiciary, accusing them of overstepping their constitutional mandate and trying to interfere in the political process.

Members of the PML-N party have also accused the military of trying to weaken the party after founder Nawaz Sharif fell out with the generals. (Additional reporting and writing by Drazen Jorgic Editing by Leslie Adler)

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