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Gandhara Podcast: Pakistan’s ‘Missing’ Activists And Enforced Disappearances


FILE: Pakistani human rights activists protest the disappearances.

The families of four social media bloggers in Pakistan had a respite when their loved ones returned home after vanishing for nearly three weeks last month.

While Salman Haider, Ahmad Waqas Goraya, Aasim Saeed, and Ahmed Raza Naseer were reunited with their families over the weekend, there is still no news of Samar Abass, an activist in the southern seaport city of Karachi.

The controversy is far from over. The activists and their families remain tight-lipped amid blasphemy and sedition accusations over social media and television. Activists in Pakistan say the bloggers vanished after they criticized hard-line religions organizations and the country’s powerful military on social media.

The recent cases are ominous for the future of freedom of expression in Pakistan, which is already one of the most dangerous countries for journalists, according to the global press freedom watchdog, the Committee to Protect Journalists.

This particular group, however, comprises only a small portion of cases involving enforced disappearances. Campaigners say security agencies have picked up hundreds of suspected separatists, Taliban insurgents, and political activists over the past 15 years. A government-appointed Inquiry Commission on Enforced Disappearances is currently handling 1,129 cases.

We were lucky to put together a good panel to discuss the issue. Farzana Shaikh, a Pakistan specialist at the London Chatham House think tank, joined Amnesty International’s Asia media manager, Omar Waraich. Jibran Nasir, a rights activist who is campaigning on behalf of the bloggers, shared invaluable insights from Pakistan. I also chipped in from Prague. My colleague Muhammad Tahir hosted the show from Washington.

Listen to or download the Gandhara Podcast:

The views expressed in this podcast do not necessarily reflect the views of RFE/RL.

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