KARACHI: During a gathering of activists at the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan’s (HRCP) office on Monday, rights activists demanded that all missing activists and bloggers be presented before court.

The activists agreed that concerns regarding enforced disappearances needed to be raised as such cases could not be seen in isolation. They also stressed the need for protests and demonstrations by all communities.

It was also decided that a protest march will be held on Jan 19, beginning from the Arts Council and ending at the Karachi Press Club.

The HRCP called a meeting to discuss the future course of protests by rights activists keeping in mind “the safety of bloggers and activists already in custody”. The meeting was chaired by columnist and activist Mir Mohammad Ali Talpur and moderated by vice chairperson of the HRCP, Sindh, Asad Iqbal Butt.


Protest announced for 19th


Mr Butt said that the recent disappearance of activists and bloggers had raised concerns over the right to express opinions even on digital forums. “Irrespective of a person’s ideology, or opinion, and whether or not we agree with them, everyone should have the right to speak and share their opinions,” he said.

Speaking about the registration of a blasphemy case against the activists in Sector I-9 Police Station in Islamabad on Monday, Asad Butt said that “this is a result of rumours spread by Facebook pages against the activists soon after they were picked up”.

A senior member of the HRCP, Abdul Hayee, said that people who approached the HRCP needed to provide their exact addresses and names, otherwise their cases would not hold a chance if presented before court. “HRCP is an open space and we listen to everyone, provided we can verify the claims in order to register a case either in a police station or file a petition in court.”

Dr Riaz Ahmed, professor at Karachi University (KU), said there needed to be a national conference in which families of the missing persons from all over Pakistan were invited. “Disappearances continue unabated where no arrest warrant is shown before taking away a person. Recently, five persons were taken away from the KU. Those who came back are still unable to speak about their experience. If we don’t speak up now, we’ll be next,” he added.

Representing the Urban Resource Center, Zahid Farooq, said that their office “recently received a suggestion to not criticise CPEC”. The suggestion came soon after the Karachi Circular Railway (KCR) became part of the CPEC, he added. Looking at the current scenario, and the development work happening across Pakistan, he said that “there’ll be more disappearances in the coming days”.

Representing the Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (Piler), Zulfiqar Shah, said that activists were at times concerned with the number of people showing up at a protest. “We need to understand that even if 20 people show up at a protest, it sends across a strong message. Also, curtailment of freedom is a universal issue. This can be an opportunity for us to reach out to people in other countries to gain more solidarity,” he added.

Published in Dawn, January 17th, 2017

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