Activist and lawyer Jibran Nasir returned home on Friday almost 24 hours after being “picked up by unidentified men” last night, according to his family and police.
South Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Syed Asad Raza confirmed to Dawn.com that the activist had reached home safely. He said that the police team would meet Nasir to record his statement.
Some hours later after the news of his return, Nasir said he had returned home safely due to the efforts of journalists, lawyers, bar councils, civil society and politicians.
He also lauded the “courage and willpower” of his wife for keeping herself “calm and collected” through the ordeal and remaining focused on his recovery. “Having a partner who strengthens you is a blessing,” he said.
Speaking to the media outside his house, Nasir said that “going missing in Pakistan” was nothing “new or strange”.
The rights lawyer’s “unjust abduction” last night had drawn widespread condemnation, with a protest held outside the Karachi Press Club (KPC) earlier today.
His wife Mansha Pasha had told Dawn.com late on Thursday night that the couple was coming home after dinner around 11pm when they were intercepted.
“Around 15 men in plain clothes with pistols surrounded our vehicle and took Jibran forcefully,” she had said in a video message, requesting prayers for his recovery. They only kept yelling at us to get out of the car and offered no explanation, she had added.
Reacting to the news, Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan Senator Faisal Subzwari said: “He’s back, thank God.”
Nasir, who contested the 2018 general elections from Karachi as an independent candidate, has been vocal in his criticism of the recent state crackdown on the PTI as well as the legal process involving those who allegedly took part in the riots. He was listed in 2013 by the Foreign Policy Magazine amongst three Pakistanis doing inspirational work against sectarian violence.
Last week, senior journalist Sami Abraham was taken away by unidentified men in Islamabad and returned home six days later. His brother Ali Raza had filed a complaint of abduction at Aabpara Police Station.
Meanwhile, anchorperson Imran Riaz Khan, who was arrested on May 11 from Sialkot airport by law-enforcement agencies on charges of hate speech after violent protests erupted countrywide in the wake of PTI chief Imran Khan’s arrest and then picked up by ‘unknown persons’ upon release, is still missing.
A number of human rights activists, journalists and lawyers participated in the demonstration — organised by Joint Action Committee — and chanted slogans for ‘freedom’. They also held placards and banners inscribed with ‘Release Jibran Nasir’.
Speaking to Dawn.com, Nasir’s cousin Talha Rehman said the lawyer was “picked up” in front of his wife at 11pm last night after which the family contacted the police.
However, he said, the application for a first information report was delayed for 12-13 hours and was finally registered at 1:30pm today.
“As far as the authorities are concerned, we don’t know about his whereabouts at all, who has taken him, where he has been taken and what are the next steps as long as his release is concerned,” Rehman stated.
He further said that Nasir’s family had decided to file an application in the Sindh High Court for the lawyer’s release and would also be filing a habeas corpus petition.
Karachi Union of Journalists President Faheem Siddiqui also attended the demonstration. Addressing the protesters, he said: “Everyone who talks about human rights will speak up for Jibran Nasir and demand his immediate release.”
While speaking to Dawn.com, human rights activist Ghazala Shafique recalled Nasir’s work, saying that he was the “voice of the minorities in the country” and all the churches were praying for his safe return.
“The abduction of Jibran Nasir is a slap on the Pakistani society’s face,” she said.
Zahid Farooq of the Urban Resource Centre told Dawn.com that the Nasir was the person who stood for them when the evictions took place at the Gujjar Nullah.
Pakistan Maholiati Tahaffuz Movement founder Ahmed Shabbar asked, “Who is the defender of the defenders?”
He said that Nasir had stood up for various environmental cases, be it the Bundal Island or Malir Expressway.
“If a person like Jibran can be abducted, who else would want to come up [to take up such cases]? This is a state failure,” he emphasised
Dr Habiba Hassan, former member of the International Executive Committee of Amnesty International, asked: “Is the government afraid of people who uphold basic human rights?”
Also present on the occasion were girls for whom Nasir fought cases. One said, “Jibran is like a father to me, he explained to me how I was being fooled by my abductors who will only use me for their own gains.”
In a statement issued earlier today, Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah raised concerns over Nasir’s “disappearance” and sought a report from the police chief. He also directed the police to expedite efforts to recover the lawyer.
The Sindh Human Rights Commission took “suo motu” notice of the incident, terming it a “heinous crime”.
It directed the South senior superintendent of police to investigate the matter and submit a report within three days and further urged the Sindh police to take “swift action” in recovering Nasir.
PPP Chairperson and Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari also retweeted the commission’s notice.
Speaking on Geo News show ‘Naya Pakistan with Shahzad Iqbal’, Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah said Nasir’s family had faced “no difficulty” in submitting their complaint and the first information report (FIR) was registered “as per their words”.
“I have myself talked with his (Nasir) wife and I have completely reassured her that we are fully trying [to recover him] and all agencies have been tasked to find out who Nasir is with and who abducted him like this. We have full hope we will reach him and make his safe recovery possible,” Sanaullah said.
Questioned about the possible reasons for Nasir’s abduction despite his lack of any political association, the interior minister suggested there were various criminal groups who became active at various points and could have different aims.
“Anyway, it is our full effort and we will hopefully try to resolve the matter. The family who were with him at the time have to cooperate in the matter so when they are saying they don’t know who the abductors were and are not providing any information beyond this then we can not unnecessarily hold someone to blame,” Sanaullah said, adding that the first priority should be Nasir’s recovery and then other matters could proceed as the family desired.
Sindh IG Ghulam Nabi Memon told Dawn.com, “We have received a complaint from Jibran Nasir’s family and the police are trying to trace him.”
An FIR was also later lodged at the Clifton police station.
The complaint registered by Nasir’s wife Mansha Pasha, a copy of which is available with Dawn.com, invokes sections 365 (kidnapping or abducting with intent secretly and wrongfully to confine a person) and 34 (acts done by several persons in furtherance of common intention) of the Pakistan Penal Code.
In it, Pasha said, “On June 1, 2023, I was heading home with my husband when a white Toyota Vigo — with the registration number BF-4356 — hit our car from the front and blocked the way near Ideal Bakery at Khayaban-e-Tanzeem.”
“Along with it, a silver Corolla hit our car from the back and stopped it. Around 10-15 armed men dressed in civil clothes started behaving forcefully with my husband and fled after putting my husband, Jibran Nasir, in their car,” she said.
Pasha further demanded that legal action should be taken against the “10-15 people who abducted my husband, Jibran Nasir, for unknown reasons and took him away”.
Several activists, lawyers and journalists condemned Jibran’s “abduction” and called for his immediate release.
In a tweet today, Amnesty International said: “Jibran Nasir’s abduction is yet another case that the country has seen in recent weeks in the wake of authorities cracking down on critical voices following violent clashes during Imran Khan’s arrest.”
It called on authorities to “expeditiously and impartially” investigate and determine Jibran’s whereabouts.
“If in state custody, Jibran must either be released immediately or if there is sufficient evidence, produce him in a civilian court, and charge him with an internationally recognisable offence,” the human rights watchdog added.
The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) demanded the immediate and safe recovery of the lawyer.
Special Assistant to the Prime Minister Salman Sufi termed the news “disturbing” and hoped that the Sindh police would assist the lawyer’s family.
“Jibran has always spoken against violent extremism and rioting. Hoping for his safe and immediate return,” he tweeted.
Pakistan Bar Council Vice Chairman Haroonur Rashid and Executive Committee Chairman Hassan Raza Pasha also issued a statement, available with Dawn.com, condemning Nasir’s “kidnapping”.
“They have expressed their deep concerns upon this incident and said that advocates have no affiliation with any political party and they only perform their professional duties and any political party and/or politician can engage them.
“Therefore, kidnapping/arrest of advocates while performing their professional duties is highly unjustified and demanded that all arrested advocates should be released immediately,” the statement reads.
Meanwhile, Minister for Climate Change and PPP leader Sherry Rehman called for “due legal process” to be followed.
Former Karachi administrator and PPP leader Murtaza Wahab said efforts were under way to trace Nasir’s whereabouts and “ensure his safe return”. “Will keep everyone posted,” he tweeted.
Addressing the matter during a press conference today in Karachi, Wahab said he was himself concerned as a citizen of Karachi at another’s “kidnapping like this”.
He said geofencing was being carried out and the vehicle involved in the incident was being traced as well, adding that any progress and tangible results would be shared with the media.
Journalist Zebunnisa Burki said there was no justification for what happened with Nasir.
The PTI also condemned the incident.
Lawyer Reema Omer said: “Such abductions are a tool for repression and technique for terror used by the state — particularly security/intelligence agencies — in response to the exercise of freedom of expression and legitimate civil strife demanding democracy.”
Activist Ammar Rashid demanded Nasir’s immediate release. “Some of us, including Jibran, have been trying to warn for months that this wave of repression would not stop at PTI. Thank you to the complicit democrats for this new round of state terror,” he tweeted.
The Sindh High Court Bar Association (SHCBA) also strongly condemned the “abduction” of the lawyer.
In an official press release, the association said, “The said act is calculated to undermine the independence of the rule of law and to intimidate the legal fraternity.”
The SHCBA called upon the police and the relevant authorities to investigate the incident, “arrest the culprits and make safe recovery” of Nasir as soon as possible. “However, in case of failure, the association will decide his next course of action,” it added.
Additional reporting by Imtiaz Ali and Haseeb Bhatti.