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.
NEXT STEP? The contract chipmaker said it would decide whether to add more plants based on operation efficiency, cost economics and demand Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (TSMC, 台積電) is planning to build several more chipmaking fabs in the US state of Arizona beyond the one already planned, three people familiar with the matter said. TSMC, the world’s largest contract chipmaker, announced in May last year that it would build a US$12 billion fab in Arizona. The 12-inch wafer fab in Phoenix is expected to start mass production in 2024, the Investment Commission said in December, when it approved the plan. Three sources familiar with the matter, speaking on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to speak to the media, said that up
VIRUS CURBS: Visiting people staying at healthcare and long-term care facilities in Taipei, New Taipei City and Taoyuan is banned until May 17, the CECC announced The Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) yesterday banned visits to patients or residents at healthcare and long-term care facilities in three cities until May 17. It also reported six imported cases of COVID-19 and two cases with unclear infection sources. As the number of locally transmitted cases rises, some of whom have visited many places in Taipei, New Taipei City and Taoyuan, enhanced disease prevention measures have to be implemented in the three cities, said Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), who heads the center. “Visiting people staying at healthcare and long-term care facilities in Taipei, New Taipei City and
TAKING NOTICE: In the first time that G7 foreign ministers have mentioned Taiwan in a joint communique, they called for ‘peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait’ The Presidential Office yesterday thanked the G7 foreign ministers for their strong support of Taiwan after the group in its joint statement on Wednesday called for the nation’s participation in the WHO, and the importance of peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait. The ministers in a communique issued at the end of their three-day meeting declared support for “Taiwan’s meaningful participation” in WHO forums and the World Health Assembly (WHA). “The international community should be able to benefit from the experience of all partners, including Taiwan’s successful contribution to the tackling of the COVID-19 pandemic,” it said. The statement included a section
UP TO TWO DAYS: Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung said that most who got the shot and felt discomfort only felt ill for the first two days Employees can ask for unpaid COVID-19 vaccination leave, from the day of their shot until the end of the next day, the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) announced yesterday, adding that the policy takes effect immediately. “The policy of unpaid COVID-19 vaccination leave will be implemented starting on May 5, and all workers and civil servants will be eligible,” Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), who heads the center, told a news conference. Leave can be taken on the day of vaccination and if recipients feel discomfort after getting the shot, they can extend the leave to all of the