Pakistani women’s activist who slammed against army’s sexual violence seeks political asylum in US

A prominent Pakistani activist, who slammed against the army’s sexual violence, has sought political asylum in the US. An award-winning campaigner for empowering girls in Pakistan has defied a travel ban and fled to the US, reports say.

Gulalai Ismail said she feared for her life after speaking out against sexual violence and disappearances allegedly carried out by the army in north-western Pakistan. After four months on the run, she succeeded in eluding a vast hunt and has turned up in the US, where she is seeking asylum.

“I never wanted to leave Pakistan,” she said in Washington. “I believe that I can better work towards democracy and civil supremacy and peace in Pakistan.” But she concluded she would be more effective abroad. “If I had ended up in prison and tortured for many years, my voice would have been silenced.”

Ismail said she posed a special threat as a vocal woman. “When a man stands up, he is mostly against the state oppression,” she said. “But when a woman stands up, she is fighting oppression on many levels – fighting cultural norms, fighting the patriarchy and the state oppression.”

Ismail said she never sought to become an overseas dissident but believes there has been a closing of the political space in Pakistan, where the army has remained the dominant power-broker for most of the country’s history.

According to a news report, Gulalai Ismail is currently staying with her sister in Brooklyn, a report by the New York Times said. 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.

With Gulalai’s escape to the US, the world will know more about the human rights violations by Pakistan army, analysts say. Reports also indicate that she has already started meeting some of the prominent human rights defenders and the staffs of congressional leaders in the United States.