Mon, Jan 30, 2017 - Page 3 News List

Missing Pakistani activists returned home, families say

AFP, ISLAMABAD

Two Pakistani activists who went missing early this month have been returned and are safe, their families said on Saturday, more than two weeks after their disappearance along with three others sparked protests and fears of a government crackdown.

Academic Salman Haider is “safe and fine,” a family member told reporters, confirming comments from police.

A second activist who was also a blogger was also declared safe by a member of his family, who asked reporters not to disclose his name.

The days the activist were missing “were the most painful period in my life,” the relative said, adding the returned blogger was now “in [a] safe place for some days.”

The five men — who campaigned for human rights and religious freedom — went missing from various cities between Jan. 4 and Jan. 7, triggering nationwide protests.

No group has claimed responsibility. The whereabouts of the other three are still unknown.

However, Human Rights Watch and other rights groups said their near simultaneous disappearances raised concerns of government involvement, which officials and intelligence sources have denied.

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

A virulent social media campaign painting the missing as blasphemers triggered a flood of threats despite denials from their worried families, with observers saying the claims could place them in danger.

The charge, which can carry the death penalty, is hugely sensitive in deeply conservative Muslim Pakistan, where even unproven allegations have stirred mob lynchings and murder.

Rights groups say Pakistani activists and journalists often find themselves caught between the country’s security establishment and militant groups.

This story has been viewed 2621 times.

Comments will be moderated. Keep comments relevant to the article. Remarks containing abusive and obscene language, personal attacks of any kind or promotion will be removed and the user banned. Final decision will be at the discretion of the Taipei Times.

TOP top