Church and rights campaigners in Pakistan have expressed alarm over the mysterious disappearance of four progressive activists and bloggers in the space of a week.
Salman Haider, a college professor and poet, Ahmad Waqas Goraya, author of a left-wing blog site Rationalist Society of Pakistan, as well as Asim Saeed and Ahmed Raza Naseer, who run Twitter accounts promoting liberal views went missing in Lahore and Islamabad last week.
Although it’s not yet clear who is behind the disappearances, they are being seen as an attempt to silence voices critical of state policies, extremists and human rights abuses.
A series of protests has been announced by activists in Karachi, Islamabad and Lahore to demand the safe return of the missing men.
The Catholic bishop’s National Commission for Justice and Peace has also expressed grave concern over the disappearances that took place between Jan. 4 and Jan 5.
"The missing professor and the others were talking for people. If they seemed provocative, they could have been brought to court and given a chance to defend themselves. I am all with them,” Father Emmanuel Yousaf Mani, national director of the NCJP, told ucanews.com.
In a statement issued on Jan. 9, Pakistan’s independent human rights commission called for the return of the activists and urged the government to fulfil its obligation to provide a safe environment for human rights defenders.
"Pakistan has never been a particularly safe country for rights activists. Many have been killed, injured, abducted and threatened for their work," the commission said in a statement.
"The events of the last week demonstrate that the dangers already extend to digital spaces. We cannot be sure if the four cases are connected but expect that would be looked into as well.
"At the moment, the most important thing is the immediate recovery of all four. We hope the authorities will respond to the urgency of the task at hand, the statement added. (UCAN)