Pakistan lawmakers call for probe into disappeared activists

January 9, 2017 8:40 pm

This file photo shows a view of the Pakistani parliament in session.

Pakistani opposition lawmakers have called for an investigation into the disappearance of four social activists who went missing last week.  
Five People’s Party (PPP) lawmakers in parliament on Monday raised concerns about the disappearance of poet and rights activist Salman Haider, as well as three others. They also asked for a swift government response over the issue. 
“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,” the PPP lawmakers said. 
The lawmakers, however, stopped short of implicating anyone directly. 
Responding to developments, an Interior Ministry spokesman said that “everything is being done to recover Salman”. 
It is still not clear how the four men disappeared.  
Haider, who has written for the largest English-language newspaper, Dawn, and taught at Fatima Jinnah Women’s University in the city of Rawalpindi, disappeared in the capital Islamabad on January 6. He had often spoken out against the disappearances of fellow campaigners.
Haider’s brother Zeeshan has said, “[If] in the capital of Pakistan, a professor who has a very active social media presence can disappear, what will happen to an average person who does not have anyone behind him?”  
Two of the missing activists live in the Netherlands and Singapore. Their relatives said they were abducted on January 4 while visiting Pakistan.  The fourth activist, Ahmed Raza Naseer, suffers from polio.
Critics say the disappearances have stirred unease among those critical of the government and Pakistan’s powerful military.

Activists hold a protest rally over forced disappearances in Pakistan. (File photo)

In addition, critics allege the anti-terrorism operations have resulted in thousands of Pakistanis being detained by state security institutions, without their whereabouts being made available to family members.
​Pakistani security agencies have repeatedly denied they have forcibly sequestered, tortured and killed people in the name of counter terrorism.
Pakistani security forces have been battling militant groups since the country joined the so-called US-led war on terror in 2001.   
Pakistan is one of the countries in the world that has a high rate of enforced disappearance. 
A series of protests have been held in various parts of Pakistan by the families of a number of people disappeared over the past years. Reports say some of those disappeared have been handed over to the US, following the 9/11 attacks. Protesters now want the government to determine the fate of their loved ones.
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