Social media activist goes 'missing' in Karachi

Published June 24, 2022
A picture of social media activist, Arsalan Khan. — Photo via Twitter
A picture of social media activist, Arsalan Khan. — Photo via Twitter

A Karachi-based social media activist, Arsalan Khan, has reportedly gone missing from the city's Clifton area. His friends claim he was picked up by law enforcement agencies.

However, Senior Superintendent of Police South, Asad Raza, refused any connection with the alleged abduction. He told Dawn.com that the police had not detained the activist. His family has not approached the police yet to lodge any complaint, the officer added.

Later, the activist's wife Ayesha told Dawn.com that she had visited the Clifton police station to register a first information report but officials had refused to do so.

Khan's residence is located in Clifton, which falls in the District South jurisdiction.

Arsalan — known as AK-47 on Twitter — has worked as a journalist for different broadcasters in the past, including Geo News. He has also been active on Twitter and is currently associated with a civil society organisation called Karachi Bachao Tehreek (KBT).

Amnesty International South Asia also issued a statement, expressing concern about his alleged disappearance.

"We are deeply concerned about the abduction of journalist Arsalan Khan from his home in Karachi today at 4am. Pakistan must end this abhorrent practice of punishing dissent by wrenching people away from their loved ones," the statement said.

It noted that the newly formed Inter-Ministerial Committee on Missing Persons must take note of the "jarring disconnect between what they are saying and what is actually happening on the ground."

PPP Senator Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar said he saw a video message of Arsalan's wife, adding she was told that her husband "speaks and writes a lot on social media".

"Speaking and writing is not a crime but forcibly abducting and disappearing a citizen is," the senator said.

Senior journalist Hamid Mir also condemned the alleged disappearance of the social media activist, asking whether Arsalan had initiated a trend against any state institution.

Activist Ammar Ali Jan was of the view that countrywide unity was needed to "fight against [the] odious policy of enforced disappearances".

Meanwhile, KBT — an alliance of several political and civil society organisations — also expressed concern about what they called the "abduction" of its activist and announced a protest against his disappearance on Friday evening.

KBT Convener Khurram Nayar told Dawn.com that Arsalan was a volunteer. He claimed that some law enforcement personnel allegedly took the activist away from his apartment in Clifton during the wee hours of Friday.

Nayar alleged that the activist's family also experienced an "unpleasant attitude", claiming the wife was told by men picking up Arsalan that her husband "speaks a lot".

According to the KBT representatives, the whereabouts of the activist were still not known. He said the men who took away Arsalan also allegedly confiscated his laptop and cell phone.

KUJ demands immediate recovery of activist

The Karachi Union of Journalists condemned the "arrest" of the social media activist and termed it a serious attack on freedom of expression.

In a statement, KUJ General Secretary Fahim Siddiqi and President Shahid Iqbal also alleged that Arsalan was "detained" by law enforcement agencies. They said law enforcers conducted a raid on his residence in Clifton and took him away.

Quoting a statement from Arsalan’s wife, the KUJ representatives said Arsalan was "arrested" for being a social media activist.

They urged the army chief, the chief justice of Pakistan, the prime minister and the interior minister to take immediate notice of Arsalan’s "illegal detention" and ensure his immediate release.

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