Sat, Feb 25, 2017 | updated 02:42 PM IST

Pak Govt. should urgently investigate abductions of four activists: HRW

Updated: Jan 10, 2017 13:12 IST

New York [United States], Jan. 10 (ANI): New York-based Human Rights Watch said Tuesday that the Pakistan government should urgently investigate the apparent abductions of four social activists who campaign for human rights and religious freedom.

The four men, Salman Haider, a well-known poet and academic, and bloggers Waqas Goraya, Aasim Saeed, and Ahmad Raza Naseer, went missing or were taken away from different cities between January 4 and 7.

All four men were vocal critics of militant religious groups and Pakistan's military establishment, and used the internet to disseminate their views. Their near simultaneous disappearance and the government are shutting down of their websites and blogs raises grave concerns of government involvement, Human Rights Watch said.

While the Pakistani interior minister, Nisar Ali Khan, directed the police on January 7 to speed up efforts to locate Haider, whom the government says it is not holding, a broader effort is needed to uncover the whereabouts and well-being of all four men.

"The Pakistani government has an immediate obligation to locate the four missing human rights activists and act to ensure their safety," said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. "The nature of these apparent abductions puts the Nawaz Sharif government on notice that it can either be part of the solution or it will be held responsible for its role in the problem," he added.

Goraya, an anthropologist who blogged on issues of religious freedom, and Saeed, a blogger and an administrator of a Facebook page hosting progressive views critical of religious extremists and Pakistan's security policies, were reported missing from Wapda Town, Lahore, on January 4.

Haider, a poet and professor at Fatima Jinnah Women University, went missing on the evening of January 6. His wife received a text message telling her to pick Salman's car from Koral Chowk, Islamabad. The family has not heard from Salman or the abductors since.

On January 7, unidentified men took away Naseer, a blogger running a Facebook page broadcasting secular, progressive views, from his family's shop in Sheikhupura, Punjab.

The government's failure to provide information on the fate or whereabouts of a person taken into custody amounts to an enforced disappearance, which is a serious violation of international human rights law. "Disappearances" place individuals outside the protection of the law and make them more vulnerable to torture and other abuses.

After the four activists went missing, messages on social media have accused them of blasphemy and other crimes, heightening concerns for their safety.

Pakistani journalists and activists face an increasingly hostile climate due to harassment, threats, and violence from both state security forces and militant groups. In August 2016, the Pakistani government enacted a vague and overbroad cybercrimes law that threatens rights of privacy and freedom of expression. The law includes provisions that allow the government to censor online content, criminalize internet user activity, and access internet users' data without judicial review.

Pakistan's security establishment has a long history of intimidating critics. Pakistani and international human rights groups, including Human Rights Watch, have extensively documented the intimidation, torture, enforced disappearances, and killings of activists and journalists. The Taliban and other armed groups have also threatened media outlets and targeted journalists and activists for their work.

In April 2015, prominent rights activist Sabeen Mahmud was killed by militants. The principal planner of her assassination later said that he killed her because, "she was generally promoting liberal, secular values."

In May 2014, Rashid Rehman, a human rights activist and lawyer, was assassinated by militants in an apparent reprisal for his willingness to represent people charged under Pakistan's blasphemy law.

In April 2014, unidentified gunmen attacked Hamid Mir, one of Pakistan's most prominent television anchors in Karachi. Mir survived the attack, and Jang/Geo - his employer and the country's largest media conglomerate - accused the director general of the government's powerful Inter-Service Intelligence (ISI) agency of involvement in the incident.

Saleem Shahzad, a reporter for the Hong Kong-based Asia Times Online and for Adnkronos International, the Italian news agency, disappeared from central Islamabad on the evening of May 29, 2011. Shahzad's body, bearing visible signs of torture, was discovered two days later near Mandi Bahauddin, 80 miles southeast of the capital.

"The government needs to reduce the insecurity faced by journalists and activists, which has a severe chilling effect on their work," Adams said. "This requires the government holding responsible the militants - and its own security agencies - that threaten and attack them." (ANI)

Islamabad [Pakistan], Feb. 25 (ANI): Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has lifted a ban on gas connections for 55 constituencies, consisting of influential politicians and union ministers from the ruling Pakistan Muslim League (N) party, including his son-in-law Mohammad Safdar, while others wait for the waiver.

Full Story >>

Kabul [Afghanistan], Feb. 25 (ANI): Afghan Ambassador to Islamabad Omar Zakhilwal said he is hopeful that the travel routes between Afghanistan and Pakistan will partially reopen on Saturday.

Full Story >>

Islamabad [Pakistan], Feb. 25 (ANI): Interpol has refused to issue a red warrant against Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) founder Altaf Hussain, saying it does not intervene in political and religious matters of a state.

Full Story >>

New Delhi [India], Feb. 25 (AN): Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella has condemned the 'senseless violence' in Kansas that claimed life of an Indian engineer and wounded another.

Full Story >>

Olathe, Kansas [USA]. Feb. 25 (ANI): It has emerged that before shooting the two Indian engineers- Srinivas Kuchibhotla and Alok Madasani- in a Kansas bar, the shooter held a brief conversation with them inquiring about their visas.

Full Story >>

Nanchang (Jiangxi) [China], Feb. 25 (ANI): Several people are feared trapped as fire broke out in a luxury hotel Saturday morning in Nanchang, capital of east China's Jiangxi Province.

Full Story >>

Beijing [China], Feb. 25 (ANI): China has seconded the recently launch military operation Raddul Fasaad by Pakistan as a counter-terrorism measure, after a series of bloody terrorist assaults across the country.

Full Story >>

London [U.K.], Feb. 25 (ANI): With reports emerging of the gunman harassing the two Indian engineers before opening fire at a Kansas bar killing one man, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is probing whether the shooting could be a possible hate crime.

Full Story >>

Muzaffarabad [Pakistan], Feb. 25 (ANI): Pakistan President Mamnoon Hussain has warned that delay in the settlement of the Kashmir dispute could 'spell disaster for regional peace'.

Full Story >>

New York [U.S.], Feb. 25 (ANI): Donald Trump has admitted that he "likes" Bernie Sanders, however, the feeling is clearly not mutual as the Senator lashed out at the President for his repeated attacks on the media saying that the former did not understand the core of democracy,

Full Story >>

New Delhi [India], Feb.25 (ANI): This family from U.K. is setting major goals for folks across the globe, clearly dispelling all notions that children in no way hamper one's dreams to trot across the globe.

Full Story >>

New York [U.S.], Feb. 25 (ANI): Following the backlash over the murder of an Indian engineer in Kansas, which is being touted as a hate crime, the White House has attempted to downplay notions that there was any correlation between the incident and President Donald Trump's stance on immigrants.

Full Story >>

New York [U.S.], Feb. 25 (ANI): Still under fire for his "enemies of the people" barb directed towards certain sections of the U.S. media, President Donald Trump has done it again by projecting the press as "a great danger" to America.

Full Story >>

New York [U.S.], Feb. 25 (ANI): In a shocking development, it has been revealed that the son of legendary boxer Muhammad Ali was detained for hours by immigration officials earlier this month at a Florida airport, and was repeatedly asked about his religion.

Full Story >>

London [U.K.], Feb. 25 (ANI): Asserting that he has already begun delivering the promises made during his election campaign, President Donald Trump stated that the era of "empty talk" is over, while promising the nation that his administration is working on a "brand new action" that will foil attempts by potential terrorist elements from entering the United States.

Full Story >>

Washington D.C. [U.S.A.], Feb. 25 (ANI): A Department of Homeland Security (DHS) report assessing the terrorist threat posed by the citizens of the seven countries covered by President Donald Trump's travel ban has expressed doubt on the necessity of the order.

Full Story >>

Moscow [Russia], Feb. 25 (ANI): Turkey may seek to reinstate death penalty on grounds of public demand, country's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said.

Full Story >>

New Delhi [India], Feb. 25 (ANI): British journalist Piers Morgan, who has never shied away from showing support for U.S. President Donald Trump, has once again batted for the latter.

Full Story >>

New York [USA], Feb. 25 (ANI): The Pentagon has issued a directive that officials should now use the more common term ISIS to refer to the terror group.

Full Story >>

President Trump set to upgrade military

Updated: Feb 25, 2017 04:16 IST

New York [USA], Feb. 25 (ANI): U.S. President Donald Trump on Friday said he is putting together a "massive budget request" to upgrade "all of the military," as reported by CNN.

Full Story >>