Commission on Human Rights organized a seminar where attendees poured condemnation upon the incidents of disappearances of rights activists. At this occasion, relatives of the missing activists have turned down the allegations of blasphemy leveled against the missing people.
Human rights activists and bloggers namely Waqas Goraya, Aasim Saeed, Salman Haider, Ahmed Raza Naseer and Samar Abbas went missing two weeks after they posted comments criticizing religious extremism.
In this regard, Pakistani Christians and Muslims had joined forces to raise the issue and called for recovery of the missing activists. A Christian lawyer Nadeem Anthony expressed uncertainty about the fate of the missing activists.
“The stern action by agencies including enforced disappearances and raids on offices of NGOs is condemnable. The government cannot justify themselves by using these methods, it is not their job to silence people,” Advocate Anthony said.
Advocate Anthony said that he believes that the opinions expressed by the missing activists were not anti-state but were intended to raise awareness about injustices with the poor people. “There has been a recent campaign against human right activists that we are acting on foreign agenda. In fact we are actually helping the government. It’s been only a few days since 2017 and situation of human rights is worsening. We shall continue our protests.”
During the seminar Commission on Human Rights of Pakistan (HRCP) laid great emphasis on limited freedom of expression and speech. The participants urged the authorities to take steps in order to recover the five missing activists. HRCP further detailed that in 2015 about 1,390 cases of enforced disappearances were reported. At least, 191 cases were reported in the province of Baluchistan; which were frequently denounced by Salman Haider, who is one of the missing activists.
It was stated that the blasphemy accusation have already worsened the situation for the five missing activists. Relatives of the missing activist held a press conference in Islamabad, in order to publicly deny the blasphemy allegations. They said that the accusations were part of “vicious campaign” waged by extremists against their missing relatives. “This campaign – they said – is only meant to divert public sympathy from our pain and grief of our loved ones, who were illegally abducted.”
In this regard, Co-coordinator of Caritas Lahore Roger Randhawa, as an expression of support for the missing activists stated on the social media: “Please do not kidnap and kill me. I am not a liberal.” Founder of the Institute of Peace and Secular Studies, Saeeda Deep, said that other minority leaders must join the campaign for the recovery of the missing activists. “Our heart aches at seeing what’s happening”, she said.
“Islamist groups are giving calls of blasphemy against the missing activists so that they remain behind bars even after recovery. We had hopes in the new Army chief but now as army grip tightens and liberal civilians find it hard to even breathe. Male and female activists as well as students are being harassed; the torture of university student was not a single incident,” she said.