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More missing activists turn up

January 30, 2017

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LAHORE / ISLAMABAD: Three more people, including two social media activists who went missing from Lahore more than three weeks ago, have established contact with their families.

Five activists — poet and academic Salman Haider of Islamabad, Ahmed Raza Naseer of Nankana, Ahmed Waqas Goraya and Aasim Saeed of Lahore and Samar Abbas of Karachi — were kidnapped from different cities between Jan 4 and 7.

Mr Goraya’s cousin Abdul Rehman Cheema, a farmer, was also kidnapped along with him when the two were on their way from Wapda Town to Johar Town in Lahore, while Aasim Saeed was abducted from his residence the same day. Police had registered kidnapping cases against unidentified individuals in Sattukatla and Factory Area precincts.


Salman Haider not yet fit to give statement


Mr Goraya’s brother Ahmed Gul told Dawn that both men who went missing had returned and were in good health.

Mr Saeed’s father, Ghulam Qadir, told a similar story. He said that after meeting the family, his son — who is based in Singapore and works in the IT department of the German Merck Group — had left for either Singapore or Germany.

Relating what his son had told him, Mr Qadir said that Saeed was kept in a “suitable” place and was attended by a doctor as well.

He said that the alleged kidnappers had provided clothes and travelling fare to his son. “He was told not to talk to the media or reveal any details to the family,” he added.

On Saturday, Mr Haider and Nankana-resident Mr Naseer also established contact with their respective families, who said the men were “fine and safe”.

Mr Haider, who teaches at the Gender Studies department of Fatima Jinnah Women University in Rawalpindi, went missing from the Koral area on Jan 6.

Sources in the Islamabad police said that though they wanted to record Mr Haider’s statement on Sunday, they had not been able to do so due to some health issues.

On Sunday, Mr Haider’s family told the media: “Salman is currently not in a position to give any statements to media or police.”

“We are in touch with law enforcement officials and are providing full cooperation in this regard,” the family’s statement said.

“According to his brother, Salman is currently not in a position to give any statements to police. His brother says that doctors have advised that he should only be asked to make a statement when he is ready to do so,” a police official said.

He added that the family would inform the police when Mr Haider was fit enough to talk to them.

His brother, Zeeshan Haider, who is the complainant in the FIR registered at the Loi Bher police station in Islamabad, has requested the police not to take any further action on his application until doctors allow his brother to record his statement.

It is not known how the five activists went missing, but the Interior Ministry repeatedly said it was doing all it could to recover them.

Human rights organisations, social media and political activists launched countrywide protests over the mysterious disappearances, terming it an attack on the freedom of speech.

Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan also told parliament that measures were being taken to recover the activists.

Shortly after their disappearances, blasphemy allegations against the activists appeared on social media, and a Lal Masjid-linked group, ‘Civil Society of Pakistan’, filed an application for the registration of blasphemy cases against the missing men.

Friends, family and supporters of all five men had denied they had blasphemed and held a press conference to denounce the campaign, which could endanger the lives of the men as well as their families.

Published in Dawn, January 30th, 2017