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Activist goes missing

January 08, 2017

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Activist Salman Haider.
Activist Salman Haider.

ISLAMABAD: A prominent academic and human rights activist went missing from the capital under mysterious circumstances.

Salman Haider, a lecturer at Fatima Jinnah Women University (FJWU) in Rawalpindi, did not return home on Friday night. Instead, his wife received a text message from his number, telling her the location of his car and where to recover it.

A case has been registered under section 365 of the Pakistan Penal Code, which deals with “kidnapping or abducting with intent secretly and wrongfully to confine a person”, at the Loi Bher police station.

Police said the FIR was registered on the basis of a complaint lodged by the victim’s brother, Zeeshan Haider.

“We learned that he went missing while he was on his way back home from Banigala, where he had attended a gathering,” a police officer privy to the case told Dawn. He said preliminary investigations indicated that Mr Haider left Banigala and went missing on his way home.

According to the FIR lodged with Loi Bher police, the victim left his Korang Town residence at around 3:30pm on Jan 6. At 4:30pm, he called his wife to say that he would be back home by 8:30pm.

His wife received an SMS at 10:30pm, asking her to retrieve his vehicle, which was parked at the Korang Town chowk near the Islamabad Expressway, as he was going to attend to ‘an important errand’. The FIR stated that his wife made two attempts to call him, but the line was disconnected from the other side.

Later, Mr Haider’s mobile was switched off and car, a Toyota hatchback, was found properly locked and parked near Korang Town.

Talking to Dawn, Mr Haider’s wife Sana said her husband had no enmity with anyone, nor had he received any threats. When asked about his activism, she said: “He does as much as others are doing”.

The victim’s wife, the police officer said, had received a text message from Mr Haider’s mobile phone, indicating the car’s location and asking her to retrieve it.

It is this detail that has thrown off investigators, who say that the sending of a text message to the victim’s family does not conform to anyone’s modus operendi.

Mr Haider is a lecturer at FJWU, an actor, writer and a human rights activist, the officer said, adding that investigators have started examining his social media accounts and e-mail address, as well as combing his mobile phone records.

Police were also collecting information regarding his activism, the officer said, adding that “although a kidnapping case has been registered, investigators are still not in any position to pinpoint the motive; whether it is a kidnapping or a forced disappearance”.

“An investigation is ongoing and we are thoroughly examining all aspects of the case.”

In 2014, when sectarian killings were rife, Mr Haider penned a poem titled ‘Kafir’, which quickly went viral on social media. The poem critiqued the intolerance prevailing in the country and quickly garnered critical acclaim.

Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan also took notice of Mr Haider’s disappearance. According to a statement issued by the interior ministry on Saturday night, the minister ordered law enforcement agencies to speed up their efforts to recover the missing man and ordered them to use the Safe City CCTV system to establish his whereabouts.

Published in Dawn, January 8th, 2017