Pakistani journalist critical of army released after abduction

There was no immediate comment from authorities or the British High Commission in Islamabad

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Lahore: A Pakistani journalist and rights activist who openly criticised the military and its alleged meddling in politics was freed early on Wednesday, several hours after being abducted, her family and colleagues said.

The journalist, Gul Bukhari, who is a dual Pakistani-British national, has been an unusually vocal critic of Pakistan’s powerful military on social media in the run-up to the 25 July general election.

Bukhari has also defended Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party founder Nawaz Sharif, who has clashed with the military.

The kidnapping of 52-year-old Gul Bukhari comes one day after the powerful military held a press conference warning that it is monitoring citizens who criticise Pakistan, amid a growing crackdown on free speech in the country.

Bukhari was on her way to a TV news station in Lahore where she was due to appear as an analyst when she was stopped, her husband Ali Nadir said.

Bukhari’s abduction drew widespread outrage on social media, becoming the main trending topic on Twitter in Pakistan. Many activists swiftly pointed the finger at the military, calling it part of efforts to stifle dissent.

Maryam Nawaz, daughter of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, said it was “extremely disturbing” and the “worst kind of oppression”.

“I hope better sense prevails and she returns unharmed. This is simply not acceptable,” she tweeted.

Last year, five Pakistani bloggers went missing for several weeks before four of them were released. All four fled abroad and at least two afterwards told media that they were tortured by a state intelligence agency during their disappearance.