WASHINGTON: The US State Department, in its first public reaction to the disappearance of bloggers and rights activists in Pakistan, has said that it’s closely monitoring the situation and would continue to do so.

“We’re very concerned by reports that several Pakistani bloggers and activists have been reported missing and we’re going to continue to monitor the situation,” the department’s deputy spokesman Mark Toner said during a news briefing.

“We, of course, welcome that the interior ministry … announced that it’s going to investigate the disappearance of one of those individuals, Salman Haider, and we also appreciate the fact that members of both houses of parliament have voiced their concern and called for an investigation into all four disappearances,” he said.

Operations centres

In reply to a question about the existence of US tactical operations centres in Pakistan, mentioned in a recent report by Secretary of State John Kerry, Mr Toner said they were based inside United States embassies worldwide.

“It’s basically monitoring worldwide activity 24/7, which keeps an eye on events around the world to see if it affects the United States and its people. It also monitors crises anywhere in the world to see if it has to involve the secretary of state,” he said.

Mr Toner said the interagency operations centres worked as “the first responders to any kind of activity like that, to any kind of crisis”.

The centres also enabled the US government to connect directly with host government officials, he added.

Published in Dawn January 14th, 2017