On January 6, 2017, Salman Haider, a scholar of psychology from Fatima Jinnah Women University (FJWU) and an activist, reportedly went missing. Three other activists also reportedly went missing on January 4 and 6, prompting concerns that the four have been disappeared in connection to their activism.
Dr. Haider, a poet, writer, vocal human rights advocate, and lecturer at FJWU in Rawalpindi, has played an active role in social media groups that promote left-wing, secularist views. He has written poetry exploring socio-political issues in Pakistan and is editor of Tanqeed, an online magazine that has criticized army counter-insurgency operations in the southern state of Balochistan.
On January 6, police recovered Dr. Haider’s car from Koral Chowk and registered a missing persons’ report under Section 365 (Abduction) of the Pakistan Penal Code at the Lohi Ber police station. Two vehicles, alleged to belong to Dr. Haider’s kidnappers have reportedly been identified in the case. His family has raised concerns regarding his state of health as Dr. Haider suffers from a medical condition known as anaphylaxis. He is reported to be the fourth activist within the space of a week to go missing in Pakistan – Waqas Goraya and Asim Saeed were reported missing on January 4, while on January 7 Ahmed Raza Naseer was reportedly taken from his family’s shop by unidentified men. All four men have been involved with social media groups which have criticized Pakistan’s military and conservative establishment. Mr. Goraya and Mr. Saeed help run the Mochi Facebook page which recently condemned the army’s handling of political groups in Karachi, accused it of interfering in national politics, and alleged corruption amongst its senior officers. Reports of their disappearance have been followed by accusations over social media that they are guilty of blasphemy. As of this report, an investigation into the disappearance of all four activists is ongoing.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about the apparently targeted disappearance of an academic and other activists apparently in retaliation for nonviolent expressive activity. In addition to the harm to the immediate victims, such incidents have a chilling effect on academic freedom and democratic society generally. State and local officials have a responsibility to ensure the security of higher education communities, to prevent future attacks, and to hold perpetrators accountable.
On January 28, 2017, Professor Haider was reportedly released and reunited with his family. As of this update, the identity of his abductors has not been announced.