We hear her voice again

Gulalai Ismail has escaped Pakistan and is free in New York.

A Pakistani human rights activist who spoke out against the army has fled the country after months in hiding.

Gulalai Ismail is now in the US, having eluded a country-wide hunt and a travel ban imposed by Pakistan’s authorities.

They accuse Ms Ismail of “anti-state activities” and “inciting violence”.

The activist said she was forced to run as she feared for her life, telling AFP news agency: “If I had ended up in prison and tortured for many years, my voice would have been silenced.”

Her father, Muhammad Ismail, told BBC Urdu that Ms Ismail had six cases filed against her in the Pakistani courts. And that she had decided her life was in serious danger.

“Gulalai decided to leave the country at this time because she realised that her life is under threat and she has to leave the country otherwise anything could happen to her,” he said.

Ms Ismail added in a statement: “The last few months have been awful. I have been threatened, harassed, and I am lucky to be alive.”

She reported the beginning of that awful on Facebook, but then she went quiet. I’m so glad she’s out.

For many years, Ms Ismail has been an outspoken critic of human rights abuses, especially against women and girls.

However, it appears she attracted officials’ attention in the last year, particularly after she began to advocate for women alleging they had been victims of sexual abuse during an army crackdown near the border with Afghanistan.

She herself was alerted to the allegations when a boy came to her to complain about his mother’s treatment at the hands of security services.

“Dozens of women had come to tell us that the incident of sexual harassment was not unique,” she told AFP in Washington this week. “It is systematic. It had been happening for years.”

Pakistan is not one of the better countries to be a woman.

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