ISLAMABAD/LAHORE: Two of the five activists who were reported missing earlier this month on Saturday made contact with their families for the first time in over three weeks.
Poet and academic Salman Haider and Nankana-resident Ahmed Raza Naseer made contact with their respective families in the morning to say that they were safe, family members told Dawn.
“Salman has been in contact with the family. He is safe and in good health,” his brother Zeeshan Haider told Dawn, adding that police should be consulted for further details.
Sources said that a police team would soon record Mr Haider’s statement.
Naseer, who went missing from Nankana Sahib, reassured his family that he was safe. “He told us there was nothing to worry about, but said that he could not come home yet,” his brother, Tahir, told Dawn.
Nankana District Police Officer (DPO) Sahibzada Umer Bilal said he did not know whether the missing man had returned home or not.
Four men, including Ahmed Waqas Goraya and Aasim Saeed, went missing from various cities between Jan 4 and Jan 7.
Salman Haider, Ahmed Raza Naseer’s families say both are ‘safe’; no word yet on other missing men
Subsequently, a fifth activist, Karachi-based Syed Samar Abbas, was also reported missing from the capital on Jan 7.
Although some private TV channels reported that the other men had also resurfaced, police and the families of both men denied these reports.
Lahore Deputy Inspector General (Operations) Dr Haider Ashraf told Dawn that police had yet to receive any such information and did not know whether any of the missing men had returned home.
Goraya, a resident of Johar Town, went missing along with his cousin Abdul Rehman from the Wapda Town area. His father Liaquat Goraya rejected the claim, saying that while they had seen the reports on TV, neither of two missing men had made contact with the family thus far.
Station House Officer Mumtaz Ali said that they had no information from the family of Aasim Saeed, who went missing from his residence in Factory Area police precincts.
However, there is still no word on the whereabouts of Mr Abbas, who is president of the Civil Progressive Alliance Pakistan (CPAP).
His brother-in-law, Qambar Ali, told Dawn that after hearing about Salman Haider, they were also optimistic that Samar Abbas would return soon.
“But we have not heard anything from him so far. I also reached out to the investigation officer concerned, but he was unaware of Samar’s whereabouts,” he said.
The activists’ disappearance dominated headlines earlier this month, and the interior minister had pledged to ensure their safe and swift recovery. The disappearances drew widespread condemnation, both at home and abroad, and a number of protests were held in several cities across the country, demanding the return of the five missing men.
Meanwhile, a campaign to malign the five men and harass their families was initiated via social media, that accused the men — who were primarily known for their blogs or writings on social media pages — of posting anti-religion material.
In response, Mr Haider’s family filed an application with the National Commission for Human Rights, and held a press conference on Jan 18 to reaffirm their faith in Islam and appealed to the government to ensure their safety in view of the dangerous allegations being levelled against them.
Published in Dawn January 29th, 2017