Planned and coordinated – Disappearances spark fears of crackdown on leftwing dissent in Pakistan
Tuesday 10 January 2017,
by BOONE Jon
Four prominent online campaigners with anti-military views believed abducted since Friday.
Four social media activists with outspoken, secular and anti-military views have gone missing in Pakistan in recent days, sparking fears of a crackdown on leftwing dissenters.
Pakistan’s intelligence agencies have a history of illegal detentions and of not notifying relatives about where they are or why they are being held. However, such “forced disappearances” are usually directed against those suspected of involvement in terrorism or violent separatism .
One of the four men, Asim Saeed, was abducted from his home in Lahore on Friday after he had returned from working in Singapore. Ahmad Waqas Goraya, another online activist who is usually based in Holland, was detained on the same day, his friends say.
According to a statement given by Saeed’s father to the police, four men arrived at the house in a pickup truck and “forcefully took him away”.
“I made all efforts to locate my son but I have been unable to trace him,” his statement said.
At the time of Saeed’s abduction, the IT worker was carrying his laptop and two mobile phones.
Both Saeed and Goraya help run the Mochi Facebook page  critical of Pakistan’s powerful military. The page has recently criticised the army’s heavy-handed crackdown on political groups in Karachi, alleged corruption amongst senior officers and accused the military of interfering in national politics.
“We respect Armed Forces of Pakistan as much as they respect the constitution of Pakistan,” runs the text on the Facebook page’s banner.
Salman Haider, a lecturer at Fatima Jinnah Women University , failed to come home on Friday. His wife received a mysterious message from his phone saying he was abandoning his car on the Islamabad-Rawalpindi motorway. The car was later recovered by police.
On Saturday the interior minister said he had urged police to find Haider, a playwright, poet and editor of Tanqeed. The online magazinehas criticised army counter-insurgency operations in the southern state of Balochistan .
Relatives of the fourth man, Ahmed Raza Naseer, say he was taken from his family’s shop in the Punjab district of Sheikhupra on Saturday.
Human Rights Watch asked authorities to investigate the apparent abductions as a matter of urgency.
“The Pakistani government has an immediate obligation to locate the four missing human rights activists and act to ensure their safety,” said Brad Adams, HRW’s Asia director.
“The nature of these apparent abductions puts the … government on notice that it can either be part of the solution or it will be held responsible for its role in the problem.”
Shahzad Ahmad, director of Bytes for All, a human rights group focused on online security, said the disappearances had spooked social media activists, and several had deactivating their Facebook and Twitter accounts.
“We are concerned over the recent roundup of social media activists, which we see as a threat to freedom of expression, association and assembly in online spaces,” he said.
The arrests were designed to “silence and smear” those who challenge the establishment and speak against human rights violations in the country, he said.
Security sources have denied any involvement, while a group of MPs have called the disappearances “highly concerning”.
“The pattern of these disappearances suggests that it is a planned and coordinated action, undertaken to silence voices which are critical of prevalent socio-political issues in Pakistan,” they wrote in a parliamentary resolution.
Jon Boone in Islamabad
From: The Guardian. Tuesday 10 January 2017 09.17 GMT First published on Tuesday 10 January 2017 06.00 GMT:
(SPN) Join us in Lahore for recovery of secular social media activists
Date: 10 janvier 2017 à 18:24:34 UTC+1
A number of secular, progressive and liberal voices have been abducted over the past few days in Pakistan. The exact number is not known but it seems they are being targeted for expressing dissenting views on social media. Their whereabouts are not known either, nor is it clear who took them - although all indications are alarming.
Civil society, political activists and journalists from many shades of opinion are calling it a systematic crackdown on secularists and progressives and an effort to control social media discussions by the deep state. It seems that those voices particularly are being targeted who have been critical of both religious fundamentalist violence and various state policies.
Anyone and everyone who believes in the inalienable right of all citizens to life, safety and freedom of expression - you are invited to join hands with us in protest against state-sponsored intimidation, extra-legal detention and brutal crushing of dissent.
We will gather in front of the Lahore Press Club on Thursday at 3pm
Please spread the word. There is strength in numbers
Awami Workers Party
Pakistan: Protests to continue if social media activists are not released
Thursday 12 January 2017,
by SYEDA Diep, TARIQ Farooq
Over 200 activists associated with civil society organizations and political parties held a demonstration on Thursday outside the Lahore Press Club to call for the release of five social media activists who were abducted in the last week.
The abducted activists, include Islamabad-based academic and poet Salman Haider, social activist Samar Abbas, social media bloggers Aasim Saaed, Waqas Goraya and Ahmed Raza Naseer.
The joint platform demanded that the government needs to ensure the release of civil society and progressive political activists.
They raised concerns that it was state agencies that were behind the expansion of a campaign against secular and left-wing social media activists.
They asked Interior Minister Nisar Ali Khan to fulfill his promise of tracking down who abducted the activists and ensuring their release.
Awami Workers Party (AWP) spokesperson Farooq Tariq said that protests will continue until the missing persons were returned and the crackdown against social media activists was stopped.
He said that the NAP was being used to crack down against progressive activists.
He said that another demonstration would be held on Thursday, January 19, in Lahore if the abducted activists are not released by then.
Diep Syeda, a social activist, said that it was against the laws of the country and its constitution to abduct people.
She said that intelligence and law enforcement agencies can still not be absolved of their responsibility to uphold their constitutional duty of protecting the right to life and safety of these missing activists.
She called on media to fulfill its duty in reporting the unlawful abduction of social media activists.
Nighat Dad from the Digital Rights Foundation said that the concerns raised when the Cyber Crimes Law was passed last year that human rights activists would come under threat are coming true.
She said that it was important to protect freedom of speech on the internet.
The protest was joined by Awami Workers Party, Digital Rights Foundation, Democratic Students Alliance, Institute for Peace and Secular Studies, Progressive Students Collective, Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, National Trade Union Federation, The Feminist Collective, Women’s Action Forum, Punjab Urban Resource Centre, Punjab Lok Sangat, Rawadari Tehreek and Progressive Labour Foundation among others.
Thursday, January 12, 2017
Institute of Peace and Secular Studies
Awami Workers Party Spokesperson