Recover the Pakistani activists

January 11, 2017

An urgent campaign has been initiated to uncover the whereabouts and secure the safety of four Pakistani activists who disappeared on January 6. Here, reprints the call for action first published at the website of Action for a Progressive Pakistan. The statement provides background information about those who disappeared and asks everyone concerned with justice to sign a petition calling on the government of Pakistan to ensure the safe return of these activists.

FAMED PAKISTANI poet, academic and left activist Salman Haider has been missing since Friday, January 6. As of now, we have little credible information, but we believe that Salman was abducted due to his political views and writings. Salman has been a staunch champion of the oppressed and working class peoples of Pakistan, and uses his witty prose and incisive verses to challenge and mock all forms of oppression in Pakistan.

He is not alone. Within hours of his abduction, news of other activists disappearing has emerged–Waqas Goraya, Aasim Saeed and Ahmed Raza Naseer have gone missing.

We demand that the Pakistani state apparatus--its military, intelligence agencies and civilian institutions--act promptly to ensure the safe recovery of all activists.

We call on scholars, playwrights, poets, writers, activists and artists from around the world to join hands to call for immediate action to find and recover Salman Haider, Waqas Goraya, Aasim Saeed and Ahmed Raza Naseer. We ask for a show of solidarity and support for those fighting for a just, equal and free Pakistan.

Pakistani activist and writer Salman Haider
Pakistani activist and writer Salman Haider

About Salman Haider

Salman Haider disappeared on his way home from a theater group meeting late Friday evening. He left his friends at around 8 p.m., but did not respond when his wife called around 10 p.m. to ask about his whereabouts. Soon after, she received a text message from his phone asking her to pick up his car at Koral Chowk near Bani Gala. The text said that he had work to do, and that he would return home later. He has yet to return.

We are deeply concerned about the safety and well-being of Salman Haider. He is a father, husband, brother, son, friend and comrade to many. He teaches Gender Studies at the Fatimah Jinnah Women's University, and has written, directed and acted in plays performed in Pakistan and abroad with Theater Wallay. He is a member of the left-wing socialist Awami Workers Party. He is vocal in opposing extrajudicial disappearances, killings, sectarian violence and socio-economic injustice. And he edits the online magazine Tanqeed and pens an Urdu blog.

Salman is most famous for his political satire and poetry, penning many popular poems that are widely known in Pakistan. His famous poem "Kafir Kafir" (Infidel Infidel) mocks Islamist clerics who use the excuse of religion to declare festive joys, dancing, music and diverse religious expressions as infidelities. His poem "Chalo Badlein" has been composed into a popular left anthem, and verses from other poems have become popular protest slogans. In a recent poem, written when another activist was disappeared, Salman anticipated his own disappearance:

Right now, the friends of my friends are being disappeared
Soon it will be my friends' turn
And then mine...

Aware of these risks, Salman never failed to raise his voice against injustice. From street protests in Pakistan to music videos, from theater performances to the classroom, from blogs, newspapers and magazines to the lives of his friends, comrades and colleagues, Salman enriches Pakistan's literary, political, artistic and educational worlds.

We all are indebted to his pen, his creativity and his fearlessness. We need Salman Haider, Waqas Goraya, Aasim Saeed, Ahmed Raza Naseer and others to keep raising their voices for truth and against injustices. For this, we owe it to them and to ourselves to not rest until they are returned.

First published at Action for a Progressive Pakistan.

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