Ahmad Waqas Goraya went missing in early January only to reappear last week before fleeing to the Netherlands. Activists and international organisations blame his disappearance on the authorities. He now fears Islamic radicals even though he is abroad. Hundreds of liberal thinkers self-censor their online profile.
Islamabad (AsiaNews) – Ahmad Waqas Goraya, one of the five Pakistani activists missing since early January, has decided to speak publicly about his disappearance.
He came home last week along with three missing bloggers (a Rawalpindi professor had returned home earlier), and immediately fled to the Netherlands, where he had lived for about ten years.
Although he did not say who abducted him nor provide details about his captivity, he said, "We want a Pakistan with the rule of law."
Goraya, a 34-year-old blogger, went missing from Lahore on 4 January. Like the four others who were missing, he had expressed critical opinions on religious extremism and radicals in the government and military.
For this reason, activists and international organisations blamed his mysterious disappearance on the security forces trying to silence critical voices and spread a climate of terror in the population.
"I felt I would never come back, I would never see my son and family," he told Agence France Presse in a phone interview.
The intellectual strongly rejected accusations that he is a traitor, and rebuffed the blasphemy charges against him, stressing instead that he is a "true patriot. I have nothing against Pakistan.”
Speaking about we wrote or said, "Nothing was against Pakistan, nothing was against Islam, I was critical of policies because I want to see a better Pakistan," he said.
He now fears that the violent campaign against him by Islamic extremists on radio and TV channels, who depict him as a blasphemer, could haunt him in Europe, where he fled.
His fears are not entirely unfounded. At least 65 people, including lawyers, judges and activists, have been murdered by vigilantes over blasphemy allegations since 1990, this according to the Center for Research and Security Studies.
Goraya noted that accusations against him are still found on Dutch social media frequented by Pakistanis, a fact that prompted him to seek police advice.
The activists’ abduction main impact is self-censorship by intellectuals. "Hundreds of our friends deactivated their (social media) accounts, their pages," Goraya said
Even the well-known liberal blog Roshni (light in Urdu) was closed despite the fact its administrator is based in London.