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Four Pakistani rights activists reported missing

Four Pakistani rights activists, who were critical of the government’s dual policy of fighting some militant groups and backing others and the situation in Balochistan, have been reported missing.

world Updated: Jan 10, 2017 01:45 IST
Pakistan,rights activists,enforced disappearances
File photo of Pakistani rights activist and university professor Salman Haider, who has been reported missing by his family. (Twitter)

At least four Pakistani rights activists with leftist views, including a university professor who was critical of the Taliban and enforced disappearances in Balochistan, have been reported missing since last week.

Salman Haider, a professor at Fatima Jinnah Women University in Rawalpindi who critiqued socio-political issues through his poetry, disappeared on Friday, his brother Faraz Haider said.

Faraz said Salman’s wife got a text message on her phone to go and collect his car from a roadside on Islamabad’s outskirts. A formal police complaint about his kidnapping was registered by another brother, Zeeshan Haider.

Haider had also been critical of the Taliban and the government’s efforts against militants.

Two other activists – Waqas Goraya and Asim Saeed – disappeared on January 4, according to cybersecurity NGO Bytes for All. Activist Ahmed Raza Naseer, who suffers from polio, was taken from his family’s shop in Punjab province on Saturday, his brother said.

The interior ministry ordered police on Monday to step up efforts to find Haider. No militant group has claimed that it abducted the activists and no government department or intelligence agency has said it detained them.

All the activists ran popular social media accounts known for liberal and leftist views. They had also highlighted what they described as Pakistan’s dual policy of fighting some militants while supporting others. The social media accounts of some of the missing activists are no longer accessible.

Haider had also joined rallies and protests against the disappearances of nationalists and separatists from the troubled southwestern Balochistan province. The fate of many of these “missing persons”, who are usually detained by intelligence and security agencies on charges of anti-state activities, remains unknown.

The main opposition Pakistan’s People’s Party on Monday submitted a request in Parliament seeking an answer from the government on the disappearance of Haider and the other activists, saying there was a pattern that suggests “it is a planned and coordinated action, undertaken to silence voices which are critical of prevalent social-political issues”.

The interior ministry has said it will investigate the disappearance of Haider, but made no reference to the others.

“The state has controlled TV and now they’re focusing on digital spaces,” said Raza Rumi, an analyst who left Pakistan in 2014 after he was attacked by gunmen who shot dead his driver.

First Published: Jan 09, 2017 19:45 IST