THE shock abduction of a prominent rights activist and lawyer this past week seems to have jolted even the most jaded into waking up to the rapid erosion of civil liberties under this regime’s quest to impose ‘order’. Jibran Nasir has often championed causes and fought cases few wish to touch. He had recently been rather outspoken while defending the rights of PTI’s leaders and workers.
Mr Nasir has no affiliation with the PTI; in fact, PTI supporters routinely ridiculed and abused him in the past. He has also not been accused of participating in the violence that broke out on May 9.
Nevertheless, he was forcefully picked up late Thursday while driving home with his wife. Was it a ‘crime’ that he spoke out against the abuses being suffered by PTI workers at the hands of the state? The message sent by his abduction appears to suggest so.
Thousands of ordinary Pakistani citizens are languishing in state custody today, many simply for the offence of being at the wrong place at the wrong time. Others have been targeted solely for their political sympathies.
The detached commentariat has so far been dismissive of the treatment they have received, arguing — perhaps not too wrongly — that it is comeuppance for their party’s past follies and transgressions.
However, the present government and its supporters have pushed a far more malicious line: they have been pumping the airwaves with apologia for mass arrests, illegal detentions and even unlawful sentencing of people who are, ultimately, Pakistani citizens.
While there is no question that the May 9 violence needs to be investigated and lawbreakers punished, all suspects are still entitled to due process and a fair trial. Voices like Mr Nasir’s should not be silenced for merely demanding that the state treat its citizens lawfully. As his illegal detention has made clear, the state’s wrath needs to be checked diligently by the citizenry lest it grows beyond control.
Published in Dawn, June 5th, 2023