Pakistani journalist and rights activist Gul Bukhari was abducted for a few hours in Lahore before being freed on Tuesday night, Reuters reported. In a separate incident, masked men assaulted broadcast journalist Asad Kharal in Lahore on Tuesday, the police said. Superintendent of Police (Cantonment Division) Bilal Zaffar confirmed the attack on Kharal.

Bukhari, a critic of the Pakistani Army and its alleged role in the governance, was on her way to record a TV programme when her vehicle was intercepted in the cantonment area, her family alleged.

Muhammad Gulsher, a producer on the Waqt news programme where Bukhari appears, said her driver had told him that men in “plain clothes” had taken her away while men in “Army uniforms” stood guard.

Her husband, Ali Nadir, said: “She is back and she is fine.”

Bukhari, who has a dual Pakistani-British citizenship, has been critical of the nation’s Army, particularly in the context of the July 25 general election. She has also defended Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz party founder Nawaz Sharif, whose ties with the military have been strained. Bukhari is presently a contributor at The Nation.

Pakistan’s military is yet to respond to the development.

Bukhari’s abduction led to many social media users accusing the military of being responsible for the crime in a bid to suppress anyone critical of its actions. Soon after she was abducted, the Committee to Protect Journalists demanded that the police ensure her safe return.

Journalists’ safety in Pakistan

There have been several cases of Pakistani media persons reported missing or being assaulted.

In January, journalist Taha Siddiqui escaped an alleged abduction attempt by a group of people who tried to pull him out of a taxi in Islamabad. In October 2017, security forces claimed to have found journalist Zeenat Shahzadi, who went missing in Lahore in August 2015, on the country’s border.

In 2017, five Pakistani bloggers were reported missing for several weeks before four of them were released, Reuters reported. All four fled the country and two had claimed to have been tortured by a state intelligence agency during their disappearance.

The Pakistani Army had denied any role in crimes against journalists.