The UK has expressed deep concern after a British Pakistani journalist was abducted by unnamed men in the latest seizure of a media critic of the military establishment.
Gul Bukhari was driving to a television studio late on Tuesday when her car was intercepted by pick-up trucks in the city of Lahore.
Her plainclothes abductors were overseen by men wearing military uniforms according to her driver. A mask was placed over her face and she was driven off.
Ms Bukhari, a dual British national, was later released to her family who said she was well and requested privacy.
But the British High Commission said it was giving her consular assistance and said it was “very concerned at reports of Gul Bukhari’s abduction”.
Ms Bukhari has been an outspoken critic of the military in advance of what is expected to be a tense general election scheduled for July 25.
She has also defended ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif, who clashed with the defence establishment before the Supreme Court forced him from office last year over an undeclared source of income.
A string of social media activists have been kidnapped in the past year in what rights’ groups say is a campaign to intimidate and silence critics of the powerful security establishment.
Five bloggers disappeared for several weeks last year before four of them were released. All four sought refuge abroad, with at least two since saying they had been tortured by a state intelligence agency while in captivity.
A leading English language newspaper last month complained it was being blocked from sale in large parts of the country after it published an interview with Mr Sharif that angered the army.
The military has denied any role in previous disappearances and did not immediately comment on Ms Bukhari’s seizure.
But the incident was seized on by activists as further evidence of a concerted effort to stifle dissent and scare off critics.
“If true, this would be a most audacious attempt to silence a known critic. Is this Pakistan or Kim’s North Korea or Sisi’s Egypt?” Syed Talat Hussain, a prominent journalist, said.