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ISLAMABAD: The plight of missing academic Salman Haider and three other missing activists was highlighted on the floor of the Senate on Tuesday when Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan briefed the house on the measures being taken to recover the four abducted men.

“This government is not in the business of disappearing people and we will not tolerate such disappearances while we are in power,” the minister told the Senate on Tuesday.

“The trend of people going ‘missing’ was witnessed between 2002 and 2008. If it was not the government’s policy, the government would definitely look the other way,” he said.

“I apologise to my colleagues who were a part of that setup,” he said, in a thinly veiled reference to the Gen Pervez Musharraf regime, adding that at the time, government policy was made elsewhere.

“Now, it is made in these halls,” he said, referring to Parliament House.

JIT formed to probe Salman Haider’s abduction; HRW, Amnesty condemn disappearances

The minister told the house that of the four missing men, one individual was abducted from Islamabad and three from Lahore.

“I am in touch with senior intelligence officials. We have been working overtime for the last 48 hours to unmask the elements behind this incident and we want that Professor Salman Haider should be safely reunited with his family. The government will pursue those behind this heinous crime; the first objective is to secure his safe release.”

Talking about the abductions from Lahore, he said that there was no obvious link between the three incidents. “One occurred on the 4th and the other abduction occurred on the 6th,” he said, adding that although a total of three men were missing, two of them had been abducted together.

The strange aspect of one these abductions, he said, was that following the kidnapping, the person who was taken sent a message to his family, saying that some friends of his would come to collect his laptop.

“Then, two men in plainclothes wearing caps – possibly accompanied by a driver – came to the door and the family, without verifying their identity, handed over the laptop to them.”

Meanwhile on Tuesday, a Joint Investigation Team (JIT) was constituted to probe Salman Haider’s disappearance. The team, which will be headed by SP Mohammad Ilyas, includes SP Rural Mustafa Tanveer and a deputy superintendent of police. An official told Dawn the JIT was examining the footage from the Safe City Project’s cameras. “So far, we have no leads, but there are some clues on which police is working,” the officer added.

International condemnation

Tuesday saw a continued outpouring of sympathy and indignation over the disappearance of the four from the international community. In separate statements, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International both condemned the abductions and called on the government to immediately ensure their recovery.

Published in Dawn January 11th, 2017