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Missing activists

Updated Jan 11, 2017 08:14pm


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THE sanitised language — ‘missing persons’, ‘the disappeared’, etc — cannot hide an ugly truth: the state of Pakistan continues to be suspected of involvement in the disappearance and illegal detentions of a range of private citizens.

Now, with the disappearance of Salman Haider and at least three other activists, a dark new chapter in the state’s murky, illegal war against civil society appears to have been opened.

It is simply not enough for government and police officials to claim that the disappearances are being investigated. Mr Haider and the other recently missing activists need to be returned to their families immediately — it is surely impossible that several individuals can simply vanish and the state lack the resources to track them down and have them released on an emergency basis.

The state, because it is the enforcer of the law, cannot be above the law.

If Mr Haider and the other recent additions to the long list of missing persons have something to answer for, if they need to be investigated, there are laws in place to do that — though it would be remarkably confounding if individuals who have built a public profile based on their human rights and democratic activism are to be investigated and charged with crime by the state.

The recent disappearances are also sure to contribute to a worsening climate of fear and intimidation in the country among activists working for a tolerant, progressive and inclusive Pakistan.

Where once missing persons belonged to the remote areas of the country, to Fata, Balochistan and far-flung parts of KP, and mostly involved those accused of waging war against the Pakistani state, the tactic has now clearly been broadened to encompass anyone who is deemed an irritant to state policy — or the policies of a state within the state.

Meanwhile, the vast infrastructure of jihad and the mosque-madressah-social welfare network of extremism continues to thrive.

That contrast, of peaceful citizens practising democratic dissent versus armed militias preaching hate and intolerance, is one that the state and society should encourage in favour of the former, and it is indeed official state policy enshrined in the National Action Plan.

But the on-ground reality appears to be the reverse, of a state lashing out against the ostensibly weak and cowering before the purportedly strong.

Why is that the case?

And why are so many in government and across the political spectrum silent in the face of state repression?

Published in Dawn, January 10th, 2017

Comments (43) Closed

Qasim Khan Jan 10, 2017 11:10am

Good editorial, Dawn team. Salman Haider's abduction is a litmus test, if we fail to make noise and get him back to his family, it will become the norm in Islamabad as well, as it has already become for FATA and Balochistan. Please write more if he is not recovered soon.

Adhnaan Jan 10, 2017 11:49am

They are silent because they don't care

Ali Vazir Jan 10, 2017 12:19pm

Not many times do we find our dear Editor in such harsh tone. Yes, we need to utilize our anger, our dissent to the suppression and intolerance of the criminals, the bullies, the oppressors, the intimidators. United we stand.

where Jan 10, 2017 12:51pm

Where is Amnesty International, International human rights organization?

Sher Jan 10, 2017 01:51pm

There were similar opinions made on the death of Sabeen Mahmood, but it turned out some thing else later. There may be many issues with the state's security policies but please avoid finger pointing until you have strong evidence.

sashayub Jan 10, 2017 02:29pm

while the current wave of disappearances is disgusting, to say the least, i fail to understand the lack of commentary on the REASONS or the "WHY" behind these disappearances. I've read various newspapers and nobody is commenting on the possible reasons..........just saying they are bloggers or activists is not enough, it is also essential to highlight what the state fears from these bloggers

Truth Hurts Jan 10, 2017 02:30pm

They were detained because they were spreading hate speech against Islam on social media through a infamous page Bhensa. They should now face the consequences.

naji Jan 10, 2017 03:37pm

Nice presentation

Common sense Jan 10, 2017 03:39pm

@Truth Hurts Hate speech is made against a community, not abstract entities such as religion.

satire Jan 10, 2017 03:45pm

@Truth Hurts I believe your statement is a satire.

JOE Jan 10, 2017 03:52pm


Ravi Jan 10, 2017 04:24pm

Bold voice of the third estate. But will civil society man up?

My 2 cents Jan 10, 2017 04:45pm

They took my freedom I kept quite, they took my taxes I was helpless - now they are after my life - what should I do......where and what are my rights as a human

iffi Jan 10, 2017 04:58pm

@Truth Hurts spot on!!!

Zulfiqar Syed Jan 10, 2017 05:02pm

MISSING PEOPLE not acceptable, well done dawn to raise the issue, this is mockery of law and justice, and to the concept of rule of law. If one has done some thing which is not in accordance with the law, he/she should be bought to the institute and must face the consequences, these actions are not acceptable, and we all must denounce them as being a resectable citizens

kaliraja thangamani Jan 10, 2017 05:01pm

This is what Dawn is respected everywhere.

Gustaakh Jan 10, 2017 05:45pm

Well said, Dawn.

Imran Jan 10, 2017 05:58pm

We don't have any laws like the 1st amendment of the USA which guarantees free speech and dissent. Therefore people should not confuse our 'democracy ' with that of the US. Questioning the official narrative in any third world country carries risk and should be avoided. These 'activists' should have known better unless their goal was getting a visa for settlement in the West.

Iftikhar Husain Jan 10, 2017 06:05pm

Very well observed in the editorial the stateis failing in its duty to give safety to its citizen. The attitude of do not care is not accepted.

ABDUL MUQTADIR Jan 10, 2017 06:24pm

@JOE And who knows they may be extensions of the State.

ABDUL MUQTADIR Jan 10, 2017 06:28pm

Congratulations to DAWN and its Editors on this brave stand up.

auginpk Jan 10, 2017 06:50pm



auginpk Jan 10, 2017 06:47pm



D Patel Jan 10, 2017 06:56pm

Dawn editorials are great voice of people. This editorial, in particular, is the best example for all news and TV media to wake up and perform their fundamental duty to deliver people's rational voice to the authorities and to the nation.

Muzaffar Ali Jan 10, 2017 07:02pm

More power to Dawn for the Courage to write this editorial. Thank you. Keep the narrative alive....someday, through someone, somehow it will result in positive change.

Keep it alive!

Muslim & Pakistani Jan 10, 2017 07:18pm

Well, finally thank you DAWN for posting this email.

Zubair Khan Jan 10, 2017 09:09pm

— it is surely impossible that several individuals can simply vanish and the state lack the resources to track them down and have them released on an emergency basis.

Must be kidding. How kidnappers (state) can say we did it. Wait may be he comes back in couple of days. But will be a different person who woould had buried his right freedom of expression.

Ashamed Paksitani Jan 11, 2017 12:37am


Tahir Jan 11, 2017 01:06am

@IMRAN You remind me Musharraf.

Yasir Jan 11, 2017 01:58am

Thank you Dawn! Keep it up. I just wish some of the popular Urdu newspapers were bold and honest similarly as well...

Asif A. Shah Jan 11, 2017 05:24am

We must continue to work for tolerant, progressive and inclusive society.Whoever are the decision makers behind the disappearances of civil society activists would eventually see the light. The future generations of Pakistan would not be able to live in peace with its neighbors without the vision of an inclusive society. Mullahs and madrassas cannot run a modern state which is the part of international community. Thank you for your editorial.

Rizwan Jan 11, 2017 06:01am

Very bold and courageous editorial on a very sensitive issue.

Akil Akhtar Jan 11, 2017 08:00am

@Sher well said

Awan Jan 11, 2017 08:45am

Its too early to blame any government agency , same thing happened in sabeen case , after investigation a totally new story came out .

Awan Jan 11, 2017 08:46am

@Qasim Khan agreed

Adil Jadoon Jan 11, 2017 10:25am

@Sher why dont they recover these people??? This is states failure, ehatever way you look at it!

Adil Jadoon Jan 11, 2017 10:25am

@auginpk is that all you can say???

indopak_folly Jan 11, 2017 10:26am

Very good editorial .

Delhidude Jan 11, 2017 11:03am

Hats off to DAWN.

saqib Jan 11, 2017 06:03pm

can anybody help me with what these 'activists' were known for?

Mir Jan 11, 2017 09:13pm

Strong and fearless editorial

Mir Jan 11, 2017 09:12pm

Strong and fearless editorial.

exclaibur Jan 12, 2017 05:00am

@ Tahir

Imran is spot on A clear example is that of Mukhtaran Mai and Mama qadir Baluch

The ed is judgemental without any evidence