January 12, 2017

Four Pakistani bloggers missing - all possibilities must be considered

@ India Times
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) urges the Pakistani government to conduct thorough investigations into the disappearances of four secularist bloggers in the past week and to explore all conceivable scenarios, including their possible abduction by armed groups or by members of the security forces.

The most prominent of the four is Salman Haider, a university
professor known for making outspoken comments about enforced disappearances in Balochistan. He disappeared in the capital,
Islamabad, on 6 January.

Waqas Goraya, a frequent critic of the government and
religious extremists in his blog posts, and Asim Saeed were
reported missing by their families near the northeastern city of
Lahore on 4 January, while Ahmed Raza Naseer, a polio victim,
was abducted from his family’s shop in Sheikhupura, a town near
Lahore, on 7 January, his brother said. Both Saeed and Naseer were
known for their liberal views.

Haider’s wife received a text from Haider’s phone on the evening
of 6 January saying he was abandoning his car on the Islamabad
expressway, but it has not been possible to verify whether it was
Haider himself who sent the text.

This series of disappearances is shocking and extremely worrying
on several counts
,” said Benjamin Ismaïl, the head of RSF’s
Asia-Pacific desk. “We cannot ignore the similarities or the fact
that they have all taken place in towns near Lahore or the capital.
Nothing can be affirmed with certainty, but the possibility of
accidental disappearances cannot be taken seriously either.

If they were abducted, who were the perpetrators and what was
their motive? Were they radical armed groups or members of the armed
forces? No scenario should be ruled out. The police and judicial
authorities must thoroughly examine all possibilities that could lead
to the four bloggers being recovered safe and sound. Failure will be
seen as giant step backwards for democracy in Pakistan.

The interior ministry said during the weekend that Haider’s
disappearance would be investigated but it has not mentioned the
other disappearances.

Hundreds of people have taken part in demonstrations in Pakistani
cities in the past few days to condemn the disappearances of the four
online activists and to call for their immediate and safe return.
Calls for protests are being organized under the #RecoverAllActivists

Civil society activists and journalists who cover sensitive political
and social issues in Pakistan are subject to constant harassment and
persecution by both the security forces and armed extremist groups.

Pakistan is ranked 147th out of 180 countries inRSF’s 2016 World Press Freedom Index.