Monday, January 30

2 of 4 freed Pakistani bloggers/rights activists flee Pakistan for their safety

"The Government has not brought perpetrators to account in even a single case of enforced disappearance. Rather than effective measures to prevent the practice or to strengthen existing accountability mechanisms, recent legislation actually facilitates enforced disappearances."

The situation with kidnappings in Pakistan of people who've publicly protested against the government/military and human rights abuses is getting worse. See the third report below. But now there's a new situation  -- or at least the first time I'm hearing about it -- in what is clearly coordinated blasphemy allegations by media figures against 'disappeareds.'  

The allegations against the bloggers have created a reign of terror in Pakistan and prompted two of the freed bloggers to leave the country. See the VOA quotes and AFP report below.

The only good news in all this is that there was such a hue and cry throughout Pakistan and in the international media about the disappearances of the five bloggers that 'somehow' four of them have now been freed. The fate of the fifth man remains unknown.  

... However, since their abduction three weeks ago, some Pakistani talk show hosts and postings on social media accused the five men of committing blasphemy through their blogs and writings.
Families and rights groups strongly denied the blasphemy allegations and insisted the men were kidnapped for promoting liberal views and criticism of Pakistan’s powerful military.
“The allegations of blasphemy against the "missing" activists and bloggers have put their lives in grave danger of vigilante killings after their return from their mysterious disappearance and captivity,” a leading human rights activist told VOA.
She refused to be identified, saying the atmosphere and environment is so fearsome in Pakistan that most people who have any information or views on this case are afraid to speak on the record.
While insulting Islam or The Prophet Muhammad carries the death penalty in Pakistan, even mere charges of blasphemy have provoked extrajudicial mob killings of suspects by religious fanatics. ...
January 10, 2017: Pakistani human rights activists during protest rally hold images of bloggers who had gone missing. (Photo: AFP Photo/AAMIR QURESHI)

Freed Pakistani bloggers go abroad for safety: relatives
January 30, 2017

[emphasis mine]

Two Pakistani bloggers who vanished earlier this month have left the country fearing for their safety, relatives told AFP on Monday, following a virulent media campaign painting them as blasphemers.

They were among five men who went missing from various cities in Pakistan. Four of the five who had stood against religious intolerance and criticised Pakistan's military have been freed, their families said.

They would not comment on where the men had been held.

Their disappearances triggered nationwide protests and raised concerns of government involvement -- claims denied by officials.

Allegations on social media networks Facebook and Twitter and by right-wing TV hosts that the missing men were blasphemers has triggered a flood of threats despite denials from their worried families.

The allegation can be fatal in deeply conservative Muslim Pakistan, where at least 17 people remain on death row for blasphemy.

Liaqat Ali Goraya, the father of blogger Waqas Goraya, confirmed to AFP that his son was safe and had left the country. But his nephew Abdur Rahman Cheema, whose disappearance at the same time as his son was not reported to the media, was still missing.

"Waqas has gone, we've sent him abroad," said his father, declining to comment on who had held him. Before he went missing, Goraya was based in The Netherlands and had returned to Pakistan for a family wedding.

A source close to the family of blogger Asim Saeed confirmed he too had left the country.

His father, Ghulam Haider Akbar, told AFP the family had received death threats purporting to come from the anti-Shiite Laskhar-e-Jhangvi group.

"You who have blasphemed deserve death. You are out of Islam and should be ready for a painful punishment, which will be remembered by your generations to come," a text message said, according to Akbar.

A relative of a third blogger, who asked to remain anonymous, said both he and his family had left their home town and were in hiding.

"We are going to think about it for a few days and assess the situation. If it seems ok, we'll return, else we'll try to go abroad," the relative said.

Zeeshan Haider said his brother, poet and activist Salman Haider, was "fine and safe".

The whereabouts of the fifth man remain unknown.

Rights groups have long criticised the colonial-era blasphemy legislation as a vehicle for personal vendettas as even unproven allegations can result in mob lynchings.

A number of NGOs and observers say the online campaigns are to silence progressive liberal voices and are carefully coordinated.

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. 

[Pundita note: AFP is behind the times; the disappearances are not mainly confined to conflict zones. See the following report; emphasis mine.]


International Commission of Jurists
September 15, 2016

The ICJ, with support of the NGO the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), spoke at the UN Human Rights Council today on the continuing problem of enforced disappearances in Pakistan.

The statement was delivered during an interactive dialogue with the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances.

The ICJ, with support of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), welcomed the Working Group’s follow-up report on recommendations from its 2012 visit to Pakistan, and stated further as follows:

The practice of enforced disappearance has persisted and expanded since the Working Group’s visit. Previously restricted mainly to Balochistan, the Federally Administered Tribal Areas and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, enforced disappearances are now a nation-wide phenomenon.

In August 2015, Zeenat Shahzadi, a Pakistani journalist, went “missing” from Lahore, a rare case of alleged enforced disappearance of a woman.

Estimates of the overall number of cases of enforced disappearance vary. The official Commission of Inquiry on Enforced Disappearances has reported nearly 1,400 unresolved cases.

The HRCP, an NGO that documents human rights violations in 60 districts, has reported 370 cases of enforced disappearance since 2014.

Other NGOs claim between 5,000 to 18,000 cases. Even by the most conservative estimates, a significant number of enforced disappearances remain unresolved.

The Government has not brought perpetrators to account in even a single case of enforced disappearance. Rather than effective measures to prevent the practice or to strengthen existing accountability mechanisms, recent legislation actually facilitates enforced disappearances.

In January 2015, Pakistan empowered military courts to try civilians for terrorism-related offences. These courts have since sentenced at least 100 people to death, and at least 12 have been hanged, after grossly unfair trials without possibility of appeal to any civilian courts, including the Supreme Court.

Families allege that some of those tried had been subjected to enforced disappearance by military authorities, and military control over the proceedings leaves the family and victim without effective remedy.

Victims’ groups, lawyers, and activists working on enforced disappearance also continue to face security risks including attacks, harassment, surveillance, and intimidation.

The ICJ and HRCP commend the Working Group for its systematic follow-up, which can have a positive impact, and urge the Working Group to continue to monitor and report on the situation in Pakistan.

The statement may be downloaded in PDF format here: hrc33-oralstatement-disappearances-pakistan-15092016



1 comment:

Unknown said...

Nice to read it !
Mir Mohammad Ali Khan