01/24/2017, 16.38
PAKISTAN
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For Pakistani activists, the abduction of intellectuals is a failure of the State

by Shafique Khokhar

Prof Salman Haider and four Lahore bloggers have been missing for almost three weeks, possibly kidnapped for criticizing radical elements in the government and the military. Anyone who is accused of a crime should have the right to defend himself in a court of law. Pakistan ranks among the most dangerous countries in the world for journalists and human rights defenders.

Lahore (AsiaNews) – The abduction of the five activist intellectuals, missing for almost three weeks, is "a failure of the State,” said Samson Salamat, head of the Rwadari Tehreek Movement (Movement for tolerance) who spoke to AsiaNews.

Together with other Pakistani activists, he is concerned about the fate of Professor Salman Haider and of four Lahore bloggers, who went missing, possibly detained by the police for comments criticising radical elements in the government and the military establishment.

"International human rights laws and Pakistan's Constitution guarantee freedom of conscience, opinion and expression,” Salamat explained. “Therefore, it is the responsibility of the State and its institutions to safeguard the rights and freedoms of all citizens, without discrimination."

According to the activist, "the disappearance of Prof Haider and the bloggers raises serious questions about the government's performance, especially since nothing has been done to find the intellectuals, who have been missing for several days."

“The rule of law requires that each accused be brought before a court,” Salamat noted, where he “must have the right to prove his innocence under Article 10, paragraph A of the Constitution.”

Unfortunately, "in many cases, this does not happen. It is really sad that activists have been abducted for their progressive ideas, for dissenting from those of others.”

“We must remember that no society can live peacefully without respect for the opinions of others. Lack of respect creates violent reactions and society itself slides towards greater violations."

Farooq Tariq, a spokesman for the Awamy Workers Party, said that the protests in favour of the liberation of the intellectuals will continue until "they return and until attacks against human rights defenders are not stopped."

For activist Diep Syeda, "abducting people is against the law. Security agencies cannot be exonerated from their responsibility to protect life and provide security to the missing activists."

The most worrisome thing for Rojar Noor Alam, Caritas programme chief in Lahore, "is that those who go missing include those who raise their voice in favour of the missing. Pakistan is becoming really dangerous for liberals and secular people. Free thought and free expression of ideas are labelled treason."

The country, he noted, "always shows up at the top of the list of those most dangerous for journalists and human rights defenders, who are often imprisoned, beaten and even killed."

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