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Abducted blogger breaks silence: 'We want a Pakistan with rule of law'

Updated Feb 09, 2017 05:29pm

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An activist abducted last month has broken his silence on his weeks-long disappearance, but is refusing to point fingers at who his abductors were.

Ahmad Waqas Goraya was among five activists who vanished in Pakistan in early January.

Human Rights Watch, opposition lawmakers and activists have said their near simultaneous abductions pointed to government involvement in a country with a history of enforced disappearances.

Goraya was freed at the end of January along with at least three others and swiftly fled back to the Netherlands, where he has lived for the last decade.

"I felt I would never come back, I would never see my son and family," the 34-year-old told AFP during a phone interview in which he frequently became agitated.

Goraya, who like the other activists criticised religious extremism and the military establishment, refused to say anything about his captors or describe what happened during his ordeal.

But he angrily rejected accusations that he was a traitor for daring to be vocal about alleged abuses of power in Pakistan, insisting he was a true patriot.

"Nothing was against Pakistan, nothing was against Islam, I was critical of policies because I want to see a better Pakistan," he said, adding in a later message: "We want a Pakistan with rule of law."

Goraya also said he fears a virulent ultra right-wing campaign to paint him as a blasphemer while he was missing has followed him to Europe.

The charge, which engulfed Pakistani social media and was repeated by mainstream television hosts, is an incendiary one that can carry the death penalty. Even unproven allegations have caused mob lynchings and violence.

At least 65 people including lawyers, judges and activists have been murdered by vigilantes over blasphemy allegations since 1990, according to the Center for Research and Security Studies.

Goraya said allegations of blasphemy had surfaced on social media sites frequented by the Pakistani community in the Netherlands, prompting him to seek police advice.

"I'm looking over my shoulder ─ I have been warned by people it is a crazy world."

Silencing dissent

Pakistan has had a history of enforced disappearances over the past decade, but they have mainly been confined to conflict zones near the Afghanistan border or to Balochistan, where separatists are battling for independence.

Campaigners and opposition politicians believe the disappearances in January were part of a strategy to stamp out criticism and dissent online.

Officials have denied any role in the disappearances, which sparked protests in cities across Pakistan by progressives concerned that the space for free speech is shrinking.

But, Goraya said, they have had their intended effect.

"Hundreds of our friends deactivated their (social media) accounts, their pages," Goraya said, adding that well-known liberal blog 'Roshni' (whose name means “light” in Urdu) was among those deleted, despite the fact its administrator was based in London.

His three-year-old son, meanwhile, has been deeply traumatised by his father's weeks-long disappearance and its impact on his family.

"What can you tell a three-year-old kid, all he can see are his mother and grandparents screaming and crying," Goraya said.

He described how the once quiet child now lashes out. "He's yelling and slapping and beating ─ that's what I would say is the worst loss I suffer."

Goraya said he has spent almost a decade in the Netherlands but had come to Pakistan in late 2016 to gauge the possibility of returning to Lahore with his family.

"I could have applied for Dutch citizenship after five years but we never went that way ─ it would mean giving up my Pakistani passport," he said.

"The plan was to move permanently back to Pakistan. But now we have to replan our whole life."

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Comments (70) Closed



Abdulla Hussain Feb 09, 2017 02:40pm

I think sense should prevail and these group of five should understand the sensitivity and talk less, there are other right activists who are perfectly comfortable doing things to help peoples but they don't use their mouth as loud speakers. Don't play the wrong chord.

AHMED Feb 09, 2017 02:42pm

So true.

adil Feb 09, 2017 02:46pm

better stay away ,,,

Nomi Goraya Feb 09, 2017 02:47pm

Sorry to say I am vocal supporter of RULE of LAW I am vocal OPPONENT of EXTREMISM not matter it is religious or liberal. I believe everyone has right to live free life under the law of land without interfering and hurting the other members of society no matter what is their skin and ideology. But this is not way you wanted better Pakistan so you have run away WHY? If all you were doing was right and for betterment then why you left that mission in complete or you are like many of us who say many things claim many things but when we have to face some tough situations love to leave the country to live in some peaceful place.

arsalan Zaheer Feb 09, 2017 02:56pm

No comments.

Hassan (Karachi) Feb 09, 2017 03:12pm

WHO ABDUCTED THEM???

AAK Feb 09, 2017 03:28pm

@Hassan (Karachi) Are you kidding? Very no serious question

Alba Feb 09, 2017 03:29pm

" Abducted Pakistani blogger breaks silence: 'We want a Pakistan with rule of law'. " Who doesn't?

Ahmad Feb 09, 2017 03:35pm

@Nomi Goraya Man you know how Delicate are the Sentiments of Pakistani people Don't you? You Talk anything and people would want you Gone. Ground Situation is Not How you think it is.

Syed F. Hussaini Feb 09, 2017 03:37pm

"We want a Pakistan with rule of law."

We can have only one!

M Ali Khan Feb 09, 2017 03:40pm

I hope you are safe Waqas and I hope no harm comes to you, your family, or others who share similar concerns over extremism and state excesses in Pakistan.

Mudassir Feb 09, 2017 03:45pm

If they were abducted, then give name of those culprits to media,

Umair Ansari Feb 09, 2017 03:52pm

He spoke my heart of replanning the lives

analyses Feb 09, 2017 03:56pm

Really insensitive comments far from reality. That man was kidnapped and could have just been executed for no fault of his own. He wanted to improve our common people's understanding of everything around him to make them a better person but he was projected as an extremist and blasphemer. Now he has to live all his life in fear and had to leave the country as anyone can just harm him or his family in the name of 'blasphemy'. That's the rule of law here where there is no justice.

Abbas Ali Zahid Feb 09, 2017 03:56pm

@Abdulla Hussain Are you for real dude?

Nomi Goraya Feb 09, 2017 03:59pm

@Ahmad Well I live in Pakistan I agree that people are emotional there but I believe at the same time that they are not MAD as well. If your aim and GOAL is to make PAKISTAN great and BETTER place to live then you must understand the cultural taboos no go areas and if you think certain topics are to be debated then you have to work carefully not to hurt the sentiment. There is one thing which is called opinion building which is un-fortunately very slow and painful process. And in a society like Pakistan we have to be little extra careful but I believe we should be if our GOAL is to make our country our society better. Staring at thing from ABUSE will not help to make this society great you have to be a person with whom people and society could align to make any affect or change. And if you are brave and think that you are in right path then stick to it. CLAIM TO BUILD A SOCIETY and LOVE a COUNTRY and then LEAVE it on one PRETEXT of OTHER I do not buy this idea

Jamal Feb 09, 2017 03:58pm

Why is not saying who took him?

Syed F. Hussaini Feb 09, 2017 04:01pm

@Nomi Goraya

At least you acknowledged that he was in a tough situation and that he was now at "some peaceful place."

Other than that, you don't appear to care much about him.

You are sermonizing him to jump off the cliff.

Thanks.

Nomi Goraya Feb 09, 2017 04:03pm

@analyses SIR I may agree totally with you but who will rectify our society if we keep on running away. Everyone feels for the person but SIR if you have MISSION which you think is RIGHT then you can not leave it unfinished.

Shah Feb 09, 2017 04:22pm

All those people who constantly criticize Indian intolerance, please read this article again.

Nadeem Feb 09, 2017 04:23pm

we all need to respect Constitution of Pak. Yes public can pressurise Govt to make ammendment in the Constitutional. Hope no more hatred in the interest of Pakistan. We are under serious threat on all our borders. I'm not an Army man but a common middle class Pakistani.

RIZ Feb 09, 2017 04:25pm

WHAT about others who don't have another nationality??

ijaz Feb 09, 2017 04:29pm

@Nomi Goraya

What is an extremist liberal and how many people have they killed recently?

Asif Feb 09, 2017 04:45pm

Never read his blogs and no idea who he is, but the fact is if we don't go back and try to do something about resolving the problems who is going to do it then?

Syed F. Hussaini Feb 09, 2017 04:48pm

@ijaz

He is trying to belittle this great man, his efforts and his ordeal.

Dr.Sadaf Feb 09, 2017 04:56pm

Abuse of power right now is corruption which has destroyed our country, do let us all leave the other agenda and work towards erasing this menace.

Shahid Feb 09, 2017 05:19pm

One is at loss. If intentions as proclaimed on 'all sides' are to improve society, rule of law, etc., then how come there is so much concomitant heartbreak on all sides. There has to be something fundamentally wrong. When 'justice', 'legality', 'ethicism', 'roles', 'responsibilities', 'rights', etc., know no yardstick, the society cannot be 'improved' by 'force fitting' it into any mold in such an environment. It will, and it clearly is, clash of 'micro-civilizations'. That is a sign of fragmented society on a variety of strata. Success of one model/tradition elsewhere does not guarantee success of the same model in such a fragmented society. One only hopes all echelons of our society come together on some fundamental, most basic humanity oriented rules of engagement for a hamoneous coexistence. That requires an environment of suspicion-free mutual trust - the rule of law everyone so desperately longs for. Question is how can over zealous egos be subdued for this larger goal?

Sajjad Feb 09, 2017 05:25pm

I think there are signs that the things are geting good but slowly... negative extreamists are targeted in police encounters and political murderers are also being targeted..hope has emerged as foreign investment has come also..here the good people has to be very careful, not all liberals are angels nor all religious figures are holy..there should remain a distance between plus and minus. I believe the major change can b brought from the grass root that is quality positive education.

Iftikhar Husain Feb 09, 2017 05:27pm

It is sensible to rethink your plans Pakistan has been in grip of Islamic extremism since 1980.

kanwarch Feb 09, 2017 05:41pm

Need of the hour is to reform by quality education. There is no point in criticizing authorities and extremist outfits in Pakistan. If you want to do something for Pakistan then join hands and educate the masses. Every educated family and person should resolve to educate at least one poor child. This is the only way out. Unfortunately vested interests (Politicians, feudals and religious elements) want to keep society uneducated so that they can not think for themselves. I salute anybody and everybody who thinks about betterment of our country. May God keep you all safe.

Pashtun Feb 09, 2017 05:41pm

@Nomi Goraya: How is being liberal extremism? If Pakistan were a liberal society every ethnic group would have equal right as well as religious minorities.

aBDULLA Feb 09, 2017 05:47pm

...changes do not happen via criticism in the virtual world, they happen by setting good examples in the real practical world!

Ma Feb 09, 2017 05:49pm

Living in Netherland and coming to Pakistan to hold loudspeakers ? Looks fishy to me

harris Feb 09, 2017 05:57pm

Unfortunate thing is that nowadays with all the various interest groups with vested interests, it's hard to judge who stands where in terms of sincerity towards pakistan.

TalhA Feb 09, 2017 06:01pm

A message for liberal and religious extremists both: First make yourselves better then think of making Pakistan better.

analyses Feb 09, 2017 06:10pm

@Nomi Goraya: yes we need someone to rectify our society but pls realize he is just a common man with a family like you and I who wants to improve the system here. He will simply be removed and no one will even notice. It takes a lot of courage and power to just leave everything and sacrifice yourself and your family against this highly corrupt powerful system for nothing and instead of at least getting appreciation, you'll be regarded as an outsider, an extremist and will be strongly hated by the very people you want to save after your rightful disappearance.

Shahid Feb 09, 2017 06:10pm

It was very disturbing for Pakistani people to see extremist posts by these bloggers, i think no one has the right to hurt somebody's religious sentiments.....

Nomi Goraya Feb 09, 2017 06:24pm

@Pashtun Look I never said that we have AMAZING SOCIETY and all is FINE at home. My point is that it is our country it is WE who make the SOCIETY so it will be WE who will rectify the issues. I am a strong believer of FREEDOM of SPEECH and I believe that lot is needed to done to restart the debate in society but there is difference in FREEDOM of SPEECH and HATE SPEECH no matter it is on ETHNIC or based on IDEOLOGY. How much part religion should have in our day to day life this decision is to be made by masses through their elected representatives. Few my friends ask me that what is the LIBERAL EXTREMISM let me tell you anything which hurts the feelings of society or some group of society comes in extremism. As extremism is totally opposite of co-exsistance in which you forcefully impose your personal ideology on others and mocks and make fun of others. We must always have respect for LAW of LAND and if we think that LAW is not right then we must work to change it not to make fun of i

akram Feb 09, 2017 06:25pm

@Abdulla Hussain keep your head buried in the sand.

ATif khan Feb 09, 2017 06:30pm

This nonsense MUST stop and heads MUST roll of those who did this. Otherwise, Pakistan is no different from a banana republic.

Critisizim and contranian view points are what make Pakistan strong and vibrant.

Imran Latif bHATTI Feb 09, 2017 06:36pm

We all want Pakistan being ruled by Law, but who can prove that the state institutions were involved in their abduction. Blaming our own institutions has become so easy and we allow people to get away with it, which should be unacceptable to all of us, as well.

Justice Feb 09, 2017 07:01pm

If you want to speak again rules of lawas in Pakistan then blame corruption in the government, blame politicians who been violating rules of laws. If this blogger does not want to tell the facts that who abducted him then he he doesn't have rights to complain about the rules of laws,

Reader Feb 09, 2017 07:08pm

Who does not want rule of law?

mkhan Feb 09, 2017 07:36pm

@M Ali Khan Congratulation Waqas on being back to a safe place. No need to think ever going back. Life and family is precious

Indian Feb 09, 2017 07:45pm

@RIZ

WHAT about others who don't have another nationality??

Danish Feb 09, 2017 07:55pm

A lot would be better if Pakistanis just mind their own business.

KG Feb 09, 2017 08:01pm

@Abdulla Hussain this argument is always used by people who have an interest in maintaining the status quo.

Khan Feb 09, 2017 08:07pm

@Nomi Goraya Societies like our cannot be changed by lectures and protests .. the only way to change it to change the education system starting from the primary education .. one has to ask the question why and how your opponents think differently and the answer will be difference in their thinking due to their education. If we want to make a better society we must give better education to our children and empower our minorities to make the society a pluralistic and tolerant one.

The end is near Feb 09, 2017 08:08pm

But there is no rule of law.

Jaxon Feb 09, 2017 08:12pm

@Abdulla Hussain If its not against the law, then they perfectly withing their rights.

Nomi Goraya Feb 09, 2017 08:45pm

@Khan Sir I totally agree with each and every word of your post uniform and modern education system is the need of hour and I am unable to understand why rulers are shying away from it.

Life Feb 09, 2017 08:55pm

@Abdulla Hussain: Yes bro, in Pakistan only Amir Liaqat can speak freely because those who silenced the group of five are asking him to be a loud speaker.

ADD (Canada) Feb 09, 2017 08:58pm

@Nomi Goraya I'm sure you would run away too if your life was in danger.

Saeed Feb 09, 2017 09:30pm

We want the truth and not mudslinging and demonizing the people you do not like. Blogging is good but should not promote anything based on one's perception and beliefs.

AG Feb 09, 2017 10:00pm

I appreciate your work, but do you think we "readers" don't know what you are writing about? We and the whole world know that Pak is in trouble. I am not doubting your intentions but for God sake stop it, there are lots of other ways where you guys can do some better for our country.

asjad Feb 09, 2017 11:27pm

Pakistani society was not heaven before 1977 but since Zia era started everything went on fast pace towards decline. Media, textbooks, entire narrative of the state and society turned this country into fanaticism, and none tolerant. If we want to progress as tolerant society then changing the narrative of this nation should be the top priority. If we like to make Pakistan a society where rule of law should prevail and all citizens can be treated equally then state should be supporting people like Waqass Goraya instead of punishing them.

Baber Feb 10, 2017 01:48am

@Abdulla Hussain why not? Silence is equal to allowing the burial of an idea.

Khan USA Feb 10, 2017 01:56am

Abduction to silence is a very thriving norm in our current atmosphere !

Ramesh dembla Feb 10, 2017 06:40am

It is wrong to say we are lawless country. Visit any African and south amarican country. We are even better than India. Don't blame our country.

Shaktiman Feb 10, 2017 08:57am

Freedom of speech is sacrosanct in any functioning democracy

Najam Feb 10, 2017 02:59pm

Hats off to your courage and sacrifice for a nation that does care for those who love her

JAMIL AHMED Feb 10, 2017 08:19pm

@Nomi Goraya Agree with you

Zain Feb 10, 2017 09:29pm

He should've been publically trialed and punished!

CRICKET LOVER Feb 11, 2017 08:47am

Extremism is directly related to poor education system in Pakistan.

Abbas Naqvi Feb 11, 2017 09:38am

This is a problem of closed societies where dogmas rule. Enlighten the minds to see the difference. Education brings reforms and progress inculcating a sense of rationality and reasoning. Pakistan still has to go a long way to become tolerant and accommodative of open mindedness and freedom of expression for all. The development of a healthy society depends on the value and respect given to its citizens by the establishment and the space to move freely at the social and intellectual levels. Welcoming healthy criticism is a virtue not always favored by fearful rulers.

Muhammad waqas Feb 11, 2017 09:59am

No doubt abducting people is a crime. But prejudice in society has made the matter worse. Liberals will speak out for liberal activists but will remain mute when Islamists are abducted and tortured. Islamists will speak out for islamist activists but remain mute when liberals get abducted. Neither the islamists nor the liberals of pakistan stand for principles...

Raaz Feb 11, 2017 10:42am

@Nomi Goraya Brother, Silence is bliss where wisdom is folly

Inquisitor Feb 11, 2017 01:14pm

Constructive criticism and vitriol are two separate things. Anarchists should be dealt with iron hands. Maligning pillars of the state and washing one's dirty clothes in public would serve only foreign interests on whose payroll these critics are and to whom they report back.

ABDULRAHMAn Feb 11, 2017 02:11pm

@Raaz : No, not agreed. Silence cannot be an answer to your questions or solutions to your problems. You should stand up and speak up against any wrong trend happening in the country in the society if you wish to make your country to have a good name in the world. further, everyone has a Right of Speech in a democratic country and a civilized society. These are the characteristics of a healthy and prosperous society. Look at US - do you read any news that an activist or a son of politician is being abducted? There is a law and order that takes care if something is wrong but people or a specific group should take law and order in their hand. Otherwise it would be considered as a parallel power while there is already an elected government. I have always said the media plays a vital role in the reformation in a country or society irrespective of the problems or issues.

ABDULRAHMAn Feb 11, 2017 02:14pm

Remember CHANGE IS THE ONLY THING THAT IS CONSTANT! However difficult it is if you do not accept or make change willingly, you will be forced to change. The sooner we understand the better! Though the change is painful and hard to accept, we must accept it for better future of our coming generations. Otherwise the coming generations will blame you as you are blaming your forefathers..so wake up before it is too late. Force is a tool used in a barbaric and uncivilized society.