Four bloggers, social media activists go missing in Pakistan

Four bloggers and social media activists went missing from Islamabad, the federal capital, and Lahore and Nankana Sahib in Punjab province in Pakistan.

Salman Haider, an academic, journalist and rights activist who also writes a blog for the website of DAWN newspaper, went missing on Friday, January 6, from Islamabad.  Ahmed Waqas Goraya and Asim Saeed went missing from Lahore on January 4, while Ahmed Raza Naseer was picked up by men in plainclothes from Nankana Sahib in Punjab on January 7.

Salman went missing from a high-end district in Islamabad. His wife later received a text telling her to pick up Salman’s car from another area. Zeeshan Haider, Salman’s brother, said that a report has been registered and the police are investigating it as a possible kidnapping for ransom.  Salman has been a vocal critic of the Pakistani establishment in his blogs and social media posts.

A protests demonstration was held outside the Karachi Press Club today and more are planned in Lahore, Islamabad and other cities and town.

The Punjab Union of Journalists (PUJ) urged authorities to investigate the disappearances and to recover those missing.

According to report of Agence France Press, Shahzad Ahmed, director of Bytes for All said “None of these activists have been brought to any court of law or levelled with any charges. Their status disappearance is very worrying not only for the families, but also for netizens and larger social media users in the country.”

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) also expressed grave concern over the disappearances of the bloggers and has demanded their immediate recovery.  In a statement issued today Zohra Yousuf, Chairperson,  HRCP, said the four are known for airing their views, sometime critical of authority, extremism and intolerance, on social media and added “The events of the last week demonstrate that the dangers already extend to digital spaces.”

The statement by Yousuf added “Threats and violence have never deterred Pakistan’s activists from speaking their mind and flagging issues that conscious citizens must raise in a civilized society. We know that the events of the last few days, will not change that. At the same time, however, HRCP also implores the government to wake up to its obligation to provide a safe environment for human rights defenders and activists.”