12th August 2021
While speaking to media on Tuesday, August 10, Foreign Office (FO) spokesperson Zahid Hafeez Chaudhry rejected “unsubstantiated” allegations by British newspapers The Guardian and The Observer that Pakistani institutions may be targeting dissidents in the UK and Europe.
“We categorically reject the unsubstantiated media reports alleging that Pakistan is cracking down on overseas dissidents,” Chaudhry stated, terming the claims part of a misinformation campaign to malign Pakistan and its institutions. He further asserted that Pakistan “is a parliamentary democracy with a vibrant civil society, free media and independent judiciary, which remains fully committed to the promotion and protection of human rights for all its citizens without discrimination.”
The FO spokesperson once again reiterated his regret that any news outlet would publish “unsubstantiated and false narratives” against the state and its institutions.
Voicepk.net reached out to Ahmad Waqass Goraya, who is in self-exile in the Netherlands. Goraya, a critic of Pakistan’s powerful military establishment, was among the threatened activists mentioned in The Guardian report.
The blogger-activist related that in December of 2018, a list of twelve Pakistanis in the USA, Canada, the UK, Australia, France and the Netherlands. Local authorities alerted the identified individuals that their lives were in danger and advised them not to return to Pakistan, to visit the Pakistan Embassy or Pakistan-friendly countries.
“Dr. Ayesha Siddiqa was issued a written notice from the authorities that they have reason to believe her life is in danger. They told her the same thing: not to travel to Pakistan, to visit the Embassy or use her Pakistani passport,” he stated.
In response to the FO’s rejection of allegations of the state targeting Pakistani dissidents abroad, Goraya insisted that a written warning was put out by global law enforcement which has been acknowledged and is verifiable.
“Amnesty South Asia is a real-time witness to this,” he said. “These different governments are issuing verifiable information to the targets. The authorities will not accept any random claim… they have shared this information [with us] under specific laws.”
The activist provided that he has been receiving alerts about possible threats to his life by authorities in the Netherlands sporadically since the 27th of May 2020. He too was advised not to travel to Pakistan or to visit the Pakistan Embassy.
On the 28th of June 2021, one Muhammad Gohir Khan, a British national of Pakistani origin was charged by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) for conspiring with persons unknown to murder Gohar. Khan had travelled to the Netherlands from the UK and stalked the neighbourhood Goraya previously resided in.
Since then, the activist has not disclosed his current location due to security concerns. He says he and his family have no social life and their movement is restricted. They also understand that their online activity is constantly being monitored as well.
“I do not doubt that Pakistani institutions are doing this… We have been officially informed by these governments that we are under threat,” he told Voicepk.net. “This is nothing new. We have been receiving warnings on-and-off since December 2018.”
Goraya also alluded to a May 29, 2019, letter penned by the United Nations to Pakistan, in which it disclosed a “kill list” comprising four women and eleven men. Women and children’s rights activist and Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement member Gulalai Ismail was the only name on that list that the UN had directly identified. Tehreek-e-Taliban (TTP) spokesperson Ehsanullah Ehsan also announced via an audio message that he had been given a list of assassination targets, most of whom were members of the PTM, Gulalai provided to Voicepk.net in a previous interview.
The kill list was the primary reason for her immediate escape to the USA, she said, however her parents chose to remain in Pakistan. Since then, they have borne the brunt of a targeted harassment and intimidation campaign – the couple has been accused of terror financing while Professor Mohammad Ismail has been abducted and detained multiple times in a slew of unfounded terror charges.
In May 2020, Swedish Police discovered the body of exiled Pakistani journalist and critic of Pakistan’s military establishment Sajid Hussain Baloch in Fyris River near Uppsala, two months after he had gone missing without a trace. Police declared no foul play, stating that he had likely died in an accidental drowning. That same year in December 2020, Canadian Police recovered the body of Baloch activist Karima Baloch, also a friend of Sajid Hussain Baloch, hours after she had gone missing from a river. No foul play was determined in her demise as well.