Disappearance of activists echoes in parliament

Updated January 10, 2017


ISLAMABAD: The disappearance of Salman Haider and three other civil society activists echoed in parliament on Monday as senators and MNAs submitted calling attention notices expressing grave concern over the development.

The mysterious disappearance of activists Ahmad Raza Yasir, Waqas Goraya and Asim Saeed was also discussed on the floor of the upper house, and the matter was ref­erred to the Senate Standing Committee on Human Rights by Chairman Raza Rabbani.

PPP lawmakers also submitted separate calling attention notices in the National Assembly and Senate expressing concern over law enforcement agencies inability to track down Salman Haider, who has been missing since Friday night, and calling for discussion on the issue.

The calling attention notice, moved by senators Sherry Rehman, Farhatullah Babar, Sassui Palijo and Rubina Khalid, called the attention of the minister of interior to the disappearance of Salman Haider, Waqas Goraya, Asim Saeed and Ahmed Raza.

Nisar directs agencies to speed up efforts for Salman Haider’s recovery

“To date the law enforcement agencies have failed to provide answers regarding their whereabouts. This is a serious issue that merits a response from the Minister on the floor of the house,” the notice says.

Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan has also directed law enforcement agencies to speed up efforts to recover Mr Haider as soon as possible.

According to a statement issued by an interior ministry spokesperson, a senior official visited Mr Haider’s family and informed them that all possible efforts were being made to recover the activist. The assistance of intelligence agencies was also being sought in this regard, the statement said.

Human rights organizations and friends of Salman Haider, who is also lecturer at the Fatima Jinnah Women University (FJWU), have announced a countrywide protest on Tuesday (today).

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has also given a countrywide call for protests for release of abducted social media activists.

“HRCP is greatly alarmed by Waqas Goraya and Asim Saeed disappearing on January 4, Salman Haider on Friday and Ahmed Raza Naseer on Saturday. All four are known for airing their views, sometime critical of authority, extremism and intolerance, on social media,” the statement said.

“Pakistan has never been a particularly safe country for rights activists. Many have been killed, injured, abducted and threatened for their work… 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 worth looking into as well.”

“Threats and violence have never deterred Pakistan’s activists from speaking their mind and flagging issues that conscious citizens must raise in a civilized society. We know that the events of the last few days, will not change that. At the same time, however, HRCP also implores the government to wake up to its obligation to provide a safe environment for human rights defenders and activists,” the statement concluded.

In Islamabad, a protest will be held at 4pm outside the National Press Club, while a similar demonstration will be simultaneously staged outside the Karachi Press Club. PPP has also called for a similar demonstration outside the Lahore Press Club at 3pm on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, Mr Haider’s students at the FJWU Gender Studies department expres­sed their concern about his safety and called for expediting efforts for his recovery. Students prayed for his health and also expressed solidarity with his family.

Published in Dawn, January 10th, 2017