Activist Jalila Haider released after being held by FIA for 7 hours at Lahore Airport

Updated January 20, 2020

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Jalila Haider hugs her sister at the Lahore airport after being released by the FIA. — Photo provided by Imran Gabol
Jalila Haider hugs her sister at the Lahore airport after being released by the FIA. — Photo provided by Imran Gabol

Lawyer and human rights activist Jalila Haider was released on Monday after being detained by the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) for seven hours at the Lahore airport.

Haider, while talking to Dawn, said she was stopped by airport authorities when she was boarding a flight to the United Kingdom, where she had to attend a conference on feminism arranged by the University of Sussex. When she asked why she was being stopped from boarding the flight, she was told that her name was on the no-fly list because of her "anti-state activities".

Haider said she was made to wait for seven hours but no one came to see her, after which authorities returned her passport and told her that she can book another flight to the UK.

The activist said she will not leave until she meets her mother, who was worried since news of her detention spread on social media. She added that she had not been involved in any "anti-state activity".

Haider hails from Balochistan and belongs to the minority Hazara community. She is an advocate and the founder of We The Humans — a non-profit organisation which works to lift local communities by strengthening opportunities for vulnerable women and children.

She is also vocal about the persecution of the Hazaras in the country. In 2018, she went on a hunger strike, demanding the state to address the violence against the people of the Hazara community, who she said faced persecution due to ethnicity and sectarianism. Haider had demanded Army Chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa to visit Balochistan and console the thousands of widows and orphaned children left by the killing of Hazaras in Pakistan over the past two decades.

Last year, she was listed as one of the 100 most inspiring and influential women across the world by the BBC.

News of her detention spread on social media after the activist posted on her Facebook page that she had been stopped at the Lahore airport. Her sister — who had come to see her off — and social media activists gathered at the airport, demanding Haider's release and holding placards.

"[I was] not told the reasons behind it (placement of her name on the no-fly list), but they said that it was because of my anti-state activities. I said 'I haven't been involved in any anti-state activity'," Haider told BBC Urdu. "Anyway, they [...] impounded my passport and CNIC and told me to sit down and that they'll hold further investigation and try to find out who placed my name on the list and why."

The activist said that only names of people who are suspected in a case and are named in a first information report can be placed on the Exit Control List (ECL). She further said that people whose names are placed on the ECL should be served with a show-cause notice, adding that she was not issued one.

Haider's lawyer Asad Jamal, who said he was not allowed to meet her while she was being detained, called it "an act of harassment", AFP reported.

Pakistan's interior ministry did not immediately respond to requests for comment by AFP.

With additional input from AFP.