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Activist Gulalai Ismail escapes to US after being hunted for exposing how Pakistan Army rapes and enforces disappearances

In January, she had accused Pakistan Army of raping and sexually abusing many Pakistani women. She has also joined protests led by an ethnic Pashtun movement which Pakistan military had tried to crush.

Human rights activist from Pakistan Gulalai Ismail, who is being hunted by the Pakistani authorities, has now escaped to the United States of America. She has now applied for political asylum in the country.

According to the reports, Gulalai Ismail escaped Pakistani authorities last month and has reached the United States, where she has applied for political asylum. Ismail was being targeted by the Pakistani authorities for highlighting the atrocities committed by the country’s military.

Accused of treason, Gulalai Ismail is being hunted down by Pakistani security services in every corner of the country, raiding her friends’ houses and closing in on her family. But somehow Gulalai Ismail, the 32-year-old Pakistani women’s rights activist has managed to escape from Pakistan to reach America.

The New York Times report states that Gulalai Ismail is currently staying with her sister in Brooklyn. While she did not reveal how she managed to escape the Pakistani authorities, Gulalai Ismail did say that she did not fly out of any airport.

“I can’t tell you any more. My exit story will put many lives at risk,” the NYT quoted her as saying.

Ismail has campaigned aggressively for women’s rights, bringing attention to rapes, disappearances and other abuses committed by Pakistan’s security forces against their own people.

While in New York, Gulalai Ismail has started meeting some of the prominent human rights defenders and the staffs of congressional leaders.

Senator Charles Schumer, a member of the Democrat Party in New York has stood in support of Ismail. “I will do everything I can to support Gulalai’s asylum request. It is clear that her life would be in danger if she were to return to Pakistan”, he said.

Meanwhile, the Pakistani security officials have said that they have suspected that Gulalai Ismail had left the country. They also said that the security officials are after her “but she is not traceable”.

“Our guys have been after her, by all means, but she is not traceable,” said a Pakistani intelligence agent to NYT citing intelligence protocols. “She has gone to a place beyond our reach,” NYT quoted him of saying.

Gulalai Ismail, since she was 16, has been speaking out about human rights abuses, focusing on the condition of Pakistani women and girls who suffer worst forms of violence in the country. The report added that Ismail is still worried about her parents in Islamabad “who face charges of financing terrorism and remain under heavy surveillance”.

In January, she had accused Pakistan Army of raping and sexually abusing many Pakistani women. She has also joined protests led by an ethnic Pashtun movement which Pakistan military had tried to crush. Pakistani officials have accused Ismail of sedition, inciting treason and defaming state institutions.

According to a report in Dawn, in November last year, the Islamabad High Court was informed that Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) had recommended putting Ismail’s name on the Exit Control List (ECL) for her alleged anti-state activities abroad.

Ismail had challenged the government’s decision to put her name on the ECL. The Islamabad High Court had later ordered the removal of her name from the list. However, the court had allowed the interior ministry to take appropriate action, including confiscation of her passport, in the light of recommendations made by ISI.

Ismail has launched a research and advocacy group called Voices for Peace and Democracy aimed at protecting women in the conflict-hit zones of the world. “She is also thinking of law school,” reported NYT.

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