Disappearing activists in Pakistan create alarm amongst humanitarian groups
25 Jan 2017
London: January 25, 2017. (PCP) The British Pakistani Christian Association (BPCA) today joined its voice with others in highlighting the rising tide of ‘disappearances’ associated with blasphemy cases against human rights activists in Pakistan. BPCA chairman Wilson Chowdhry said: ‘We have repeatedly highlighted the threats of and actual murder and violence that often accompany blasphemy allegations against Christians in Pakistan, which are usually used as a weapon of intimidation in disputes or as part of a slow broiling genocide to crush Christians and other minorities.
However, we are told by experts in genocide that the targeting of moderates of the majority community and those that speak out is usually a part of the process of genocide, and over the last couple of days we have been made aware that on top of the human rights activists murdered last year, a number of such activists and bloggers have disappeared in the last couple of weeks or so, several of them Pakistani’s who were residing in the Netherlands but were on a visit to Pakistan.
We understand that most or all of them have written online about the disappearances and human rights abuses perpetrated by both the security forces and religious extremists.’
Reports indicate that at least 10 such bloggers and activists have disappeared over recent weeks. At least one of those who has ‘disappeared’ is a female activist, Zeenat Shehzadi. Alarm has particularly been raised after reports indicate that four of the missing activists were involved in a social media campaign to register police cases against powerful figures - such as the owner of a TV station and a powerful political party leader. They are all said to have disappeared within the space of three days in several different locations, whilst various accusers have registered charges of blasphemy against at least five of the disappeared.
Two Netherlands based activists, cousins Waqas Garoya and Asim Saeeddisappeared from Lahore on 4th January, someone called Ahmed Raza disappeared on 7th January, and prominent academic and outspoken campaigner Profesor Salman Haider disappeared from Islamabad on the 6th.
‘The close timing across several locations along with the blasphemy accusations strongly suggests a co-ordinated action to target those bravely exposing the dark heart of the Pakistani establishment. A world where it can sometimes be hard to tell apart establishment figures and Islamic extremists – sometimes they are one and the same. It is telling that, so I’m informed, Pakistan’s Senate Chairman, Raza Rabbani has publicly condemned on the floor of the house, those countries such as the UK and the USA that have expressed concern about the disappearances.
Mr Chowdhry, said: 'This targeting of activists and moderates and the denial over it in the highest circles does not bode well for the future, and we urge governments to face up to the likelihood of a new and greater wave of persecution of minorities and activists in Pakistan and for them to consider the genuine needs of Pakistani minority refugees who are often very low on options.
'We would remind them that the latest independently audited rankings released this month place Pakistan as the 4 th worst nation in the world to be a Christian, ranking just behind Afghanistan and ahead of brutal Sudan and as even worse than ISIS ravaged Syria and Iraq.
'I repeat, the situation of Christians in Pakistan is now WORSE than that of Iraq and Syria, as they face a situation where organised crime, corruption and religious extremism closely intermingle.
Whoever is behind the disappearances and simultaneous blasphemy allegations, whether it is religious extremists or the establishment, or both working hand in hand, the world needs to pay attention to the signs of what is likely to come’