Not cricket

Humanists UK has more:

Update, 2 pm: Gulalai has now been released on bail, but her passport has not been returned to her, and she is still unable to leave Pakistan because she is on an ‘exit control list’. Humanists UK is now focused on ensuring she is not prosecuted for any crime and regains the right to travel.

Original story: Pakistani human rights campaigner Gulalai Ismail was arrested at Islamabad Airport today on her return from the UK. Humanists UK has joined other humanist organisations from across the world in calling for her immediate release.

Gulalai was in London to attend the Board meeting of the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU), of which she is a director. She also attended Humanist UK’s Conservative Party fringe event as a guest speaker alongside Crispin Blunt MP and Humanists UK’s Chief Executive Andrew Copson.

But Pakistan has theocratic tendencies and it doesn’t like to see its people speaking at humanist conferences.

Among other human rights work, Gulalai is the founder of Aware Girls, an organisation which works to empower and educate women and girls on rights and leadership in Pakistan, and mentored Nobel Peace Prize laureate Malala Yousafzai, whom she also visited when in the UK last week.

That’s how I first learned of her: on Twitter, the day Malala was shot.

Humanists UK Chief Executive and President of IHEU Andrew Copson said:

‘We are gravely concerned for our dear friend and colleague. Gulalai is a brave humanist and human rights activist, whose tireless efforts for peace and human rights have earned her respect around the world. Pakistan should be proud to have produced such a daughter and we urge the authorities to release her, return her passport, and restore her freedom to travel.

‘We have written today to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Pakistan High Commission in London urging them to support Gulalai’s urgent release and offer her the full protection of the law.’

Crispin Blunt MP, Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Humanist Group, said:

‘The news that human rights activist Gulalai Ismail was arrested in Pakistan on her return from the United Kingdom is a truly appalling apparent reflection on Pakistan and its attachment or otherwise to democracy, freedom of expression and the rule of law and a bitter disappointment to those of us who had such expectations of Imran Khan’s new administration. Has the education he received at the University of Oxford counted for nothing, quite apart from cricket’s lessons in fair play?

‘Gulalai has been a strong advocate of human rights, including building democracy, empowerment of women and girls, and countering violent extremism. I had the pleasure to speak alongside her just eleven days ago at Conservative Party Conference at a meeting of Humanists UK.

‘I am beyond concerned that such a prominent human rights advocate should be arrested on her return to Pakistan when she had made such a positive impression abroad, as well as winning admiration for her extraordinary courage.

‘I have written today to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Pakistan High Commission in London urging them to support Gulalai’s urgent release and offer her the full protection of the law.’

Gulalai with Malala earlier this week.

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