Protest over missing social media activists

Published January 13, 2017
Civil society activists protest outside the Lahore Press Club for the recovery of missing social media activists. — White Star
Civil society activists protest outside the Lahore Press Club for the recovery of missing social media activists. — White Star

LAHORE: Several rights and political activists on Thursday gathered outside the Lahore Press Club in protest against the disappearance of social media activists, demanding the government to recover them and secure the constitutional right to freedom of expression.

Dr Salman Haider, Ahmad Waqass Goraya, Asim Saeed and Ahmed Raza Naseer went missing during the last one week from Islamabad, Lahore and Nankana Sahib and their whereabouts are still unknown.

The protesters raised slogans against their disappearance. They were carrying placards inscribed with slogans in favour of social media activists and against the government for failing to recover them.

They marched around the press club and demanded recovery of these activists.

Speaking on the occasion, Awami Workers Party spokesperson Farooq Tariq said they would continue their protest against all those who tried to invade cyber space of the secular people. He said if anyone from the missing social media activists had committed any crime he should be presented before the court; otherwise, all of them should be released.

He lamented that the activists were picked up for criticising the extremists’ narrative and for writing poetry but the banned outfits were allowed to hold rallies even in the federal capital. He said they would raise their voice against the state atrocities of kidnapping and restricting freedom of speech.

Rwadari Tehreek Chairman Samson Salamat said all the international human rights standards and the Constitution of Pakistan guaranteed freedom of conscience and opinion and expression; therefore, the government and the state institutions were duty-bound to safeguard the rights and freedom of all the citizens without discrimination.

“However, the abduction of Prof Salman Haider and other progressive social activists has raised serious questions over the performance of federal and provincial governments as well as all the institutions that are responsible for safety and security of the citizens. This is a failure of the state machinery that even the whereabouts of the missing activists have not been traced despite the passage of so many days. We call upon the government to take this matter seriously,” he said.

Human rights activist Hafeez Buzdar said the state institutions had made several issues contagious, including the missing persons.

“The policy of forced disappearances of political and human rights activists, writers and teachers was started from Balochistan and it has reached the federal capital now.”

Mr Buzdar said no one was ready to address the issue of the missing persons and those who criticised different state institutions over exceeding their constitutional boundary also went missing, including these recent mysterious disappearances of these four social media activists.

Published in Dawn, January 13th, 2017

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