Pakistani journalist abducted in Lahore, returns home hours later

A 52-year-old Pakistani journalist and activist known for her criticism of Pakistan’s military was allegedly abducted by unknown men, but was later released as netizens took to social media blaming intelligence agencies for her forced disappearance.

Gul Bukhari was on her way to the Waqt TV studio for a show when she was intercepted and abducted on Sherpao Bridge in Lahore’s Cantonment area at around 11 pm last night.

The driver of the Waqt TV cab told the police that two persons came out of a double-cabin and asked Bukhari to get into their vehicle. “When she refused they bundled her up in the vehicle and sped away,” he said, adding that her abductors did not say anything to him.

Later, Bukhari’s family registered a missing report at a local police station.

As the news of Bukhari’s abduction broke out, several people took to the social media blaming the intelligence agencies for her forced disappearance for her extreme views about the Pakistani army.

Some three hours later, Bukhari’s family confirmed that she has returned home.

It, however, did not talk about her abductors.

Hammad, a police official, said the police had reached Bukhari’s house but she refused to record her statement at the moment. “We will visit her in the morning again for her statement,” he said.

Reacting sharply on Twitter, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leader and daughter of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, Maryam Nawaz, expressed her shock. “Extremely disturbing and worrisome news of Gul Bukhari’s abduction. This is just cruel & worst kind of oppression. A sad day,” she said.

Bukhari is a vocal critic of the Pakistan army. She is presently a contributing Op-Ed writer at The Nation and appears as an analyst on Waqt TV show ‘2vs2’.

In a separate incident, journalist Asad Kharal of BOL TV was allegedly attacked by unidentified men near the Lahore airport.

Kheral later posted pictures of his blood-soaked jacket and blood-stained face on his Twitter account. “I was attacked by some persons wearing masks. I am at hospital,” he tweeted.

Senior police officer Bilal Zafar said, “Kharal has been tortured by unidentified persons when he was coming out of the Lahore airport.”

He said a case will be registered on the statement of Kheral.

Kheral’s colleagues, however, blamed the PML-N for the alleged attack. “Since Kheral is a strong critic of PML-N, its involvement cannot be ruled out in the attack,” Director News BOL TV Babar Dogar said.

The incidents took place amid a growing crackdown on free speech in Pakistan as the general elections are due in July 25 in the country.

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