Four social media activists with outspoken, secular and anti-military views have gone missing in Pakistan in recent days, sparking fears of a crackdown on left-wing dissenters.
Pakistan’s intelligence agencies have a history of illegal detentions and of not notifying relatives about where they are or why they are being held. However, such “forced disappearances” are usually directed against those suspected of involvement in terrorism or violent separatism.
One of the four men, Asim Saeed, was abducted from his home in Lahore on Friday after he had returned from working in Singapore. Ahmad Waqas Goraya, another online activist who is usually based in the Netherlands, was detained on the same day, his friends said.
According to a statement given by Saeed’s father to the police, four men arrived at the house in a pickup truck and “forcefully took him away.”
“I made all efforts to locate my son, but I have been unable to trace him,” his statement said.
At the time of Saeed’s abduction, the information technology worker was carrying his laptop and two mobile phones.
Both Saeed and Goraya help run the Mochi Facebook page critical of Pakistan’s powerful military. The page recently criticized the army’s heavy-handed crackdown on political groups in Karachi, and accused senior officers of corruption and the military of interfering in national politics.
Salman Haider, a lecturer at Fatima Jinnah Women University, failed to come home on Friday. His wife received a mysterious message from his phone saying he was abandoning his car on the Islamabad-Rawalpindi motorway. The car was later recovered by police.
On Saturday, Pakistani Minister of the Interior Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan said he had urged police to find Haider, a playwright, poet and editor of Tanqeed. The online magazine has criticized army counterinsurgency operations in the southern state of Balochistan.
Relatives of the fourth man, Ahmed Raza Naseer, said he was taken from his family’s shop in the Punjab District of Sheikhupra on Saturday.
Human Rights Watch asked authorities to investigate the apparent abductions as a matter of urgency.
“The Pakistani government has an immediate obligation to locate the four missing human rights activists and act to ensure their safety,” said Brad Adams, the group’s Asia director. “The nature of these apparent abductions puts the ... government on notice that it can either be part of the solution or it will be held responsible for its role in the problem.”
Shahzad Ahmad, director of Bytes for All, a human rights group focused on online security, said the disappearances had spooked social media activists, and several had deactivated their Facebook and Twitter accounts.
“We are concerned over the recent roundup of social media activists, which we see as a threat to freedom of expression, association and assembly in online spaces,” he said.
SOURED RELATIONS: Program director Jennifer Liu said the move to Taipei was due to a ‘perceived lack of friendliness’ from Beijing Language and Culture University Harvard University is to relocate its summer Mandarin program from Beijing to National Taiwan University (NTU) starting next year, a student publication reported on Thursday last week. Run at Beijing Language and Culture University (BLCU) since 2004, the Harvard Beijing Academy is to become the Harvard Taipei Academy once it moves to Taiwan, Crimson magazine reported. Program director Jennifer Liu (劉力嘉) attributed the decision to a “perceived lack of friendliness” from the Chinese university, potentially due to shifting political winds. Liu told the magazine that BLCU in recent years had failed to provide a single dorm for the students or separate accommodation of
The Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) caucus yesterday issued a rebuttal to former US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice, who said a fistfight in the Legislative Yuan might have been “provoked from the outside” to destabilize Taiwan. Rice made the comment in an online discussion about the AUKUS alliance of Australia, the UK and the US hosted by the Policy Exchange forum in London on Thursday. On mention of Taiwan, she was quoted by The Australian as predicting that Beijing would use paramilitary forces and acts of sabotage to destabilize the nation. “There was a fistfight in the Taiwanese parliament a few weeks ago
ADVANCING TECH: With revenue on target to reach US$15.4 billion, the Hsinchu-based chipmaker said it is looking to produce 3-nanometer chips later this year Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (TSMC, 台積電) yesterday announced plans to build a new plant in Japan next year to produce 22-nanometer and 28-nanometer chips in its latest effort to expand its global manufacturing footprint. The Japanese fab is to start operations in 2024, the world’s biggest contract chipmaker said, ending months of speculation. “We have received strong commitment to supporting this project from our customers and the Japanese government,” TSMC chief executive officer C.C. Wei (魏哲家) told a quarterly investors’ conference. “We believe the expansion of our global manufacturing footprint will enable us to better serve our customers’ needs and reach global talent,
KNOWN ISSUES: Fire safety issues were found in the 40-year-old building, which previously housed a theater and restaurants, in 2019, last year and May, an official said Forty-six people died and 41 were injured in a building fire that raged out of control for hours overnight in Kaohsiung, authorities said yesterday. Flames and smoke billowed from the lower floors of the 13-story Cheng Chung Cheng (城中城) building on Fubei Road in Yancheng District (鹽埕), as firefighters tried to douse the blaze from the street and aerial platforms. The death toll rose steadily through the day as rescue workers searched the combined commercial and residential building. By late afternoon, authorities said 32 bodies had been found, while a further 14 people who showed no signs of life were among 55