Pakistan, Christians and Muslims call for the release of the disappeared activists and intellectuals (Photos)
by Kamran Chaudhry

The Commission on Human Rights organizes a seminar. Relatives of the abducted intellectuals reject the accusations of blasphemy, brought forward by Islamic radicals. "It's just a move to lock them up behind bars after their eventual release."


Lahore (AsiaNews) - Christians and Muslim human rights activists are demanding the release of the five activists who disappeared in Pakistan. They went missing two weeks after they had posted comments critical of religious extremism present in political and military circles. They are: cousins ​​ Waqas Goraya and Aasim Saeed, both bloggers; Salman Haider, well-known poet who teaches at Fatima Jinnah Women's University in Rawalpindi; blogger Ahmed Raza Naseer, who suffers from polio, kidnapped while he was in his Skeikhupura shop, near Lahore and  Samar Abbas, president of the Civil Progressive Alliance Pakistan.

Speaking to AsiaNews Nadeem Anthony, a Christian lawyer, expresses great concern about the fate of the liberal intellectuals and lay people in the Islamic Republic. "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".

The lawyer believes that the opinions expressed by the five disappeared  were not " The victims were not against Pakistan and were only raising awareness about injustices with the poor ". "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. Its been only a few days since 2017 and situation of human rights is worsening. We shall continue our protests".

Yesterday the Commission on Human Rights of Pakistan (HRCP) organized a seminar to turn the spotlight on the limited possibilities of expression for social organizations operating in the country. The participants demanded the release of the four Lahore bloggers and Rawalpindi Professor. A student of the University Law College in Lahore has also denounced their disappearance, but was punished, tortured and held hostage for several hours by other fellow students linked to the radical Jamaat-e-Islam.

According to the Commission, in 2015 there were 1,390 cases of enforced disappearances. Of these, at least 191 have taken place between January and November in the province of Balochistan, repeatedly denounced by Salman Haider, the missing professor.

The position of the activists, already delicate in itself, seems to worsen after complaints of blasphemy, crime in Pakistan is punishable with the death penalty were presented against them. This is why relatives of the missing intellectuals yesterday held a press conference in Islamabad, denouncing the "vicious campaign" waged by extremists against their 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".

Rojar Randhawa, coordinator of Caritas Lahore has expressed his support for the activists, who wrote provocatively on his Facebook account: "Please do not kidnap and kill me. I am not a liberal. "

Saeeda Deep, founder of the Institute of Peace and Secular Studies urged other minority leaders to join her protest campaign. "Our heart aches at seeing whats 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".