Unexplained abductions in Karachi

Six activists were illegally abducted in Karachi on Sunday the 22nd of August. The activists were kidnapped after attending a Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM) solidarity protest, held at the Karachi Press Club. Their whereabouts are still unknown and there have been no cases registered against them.

The six missing persons are members of Lal Salam, the Pakistani chapter of the International Marxist Tendency (IMT). They have been identified as Karim Parhar, a PTM leader from Quetta, Dr. Zain ul Abideen and Aftab Ashraf, organisers from Lahore, Attaullah Afridi, an organiser from Islamabad, Umar Riaz from Karachi and Gulbaz who hails from Kashmir. The protest they attended was called for and organised by PTM leaders after the Punjab government refused to issue a permit allowing them to hold a rally at Mochi Gate in Lahore.

IMT representatives believe their members are being targeted because of their involvement with PTM. They also claim that state agencies were behind the abductions. IMT member, Anam Khan, told Soch that two of the missings persons had been contacted by security personnel before they were abducted. Aftab Ashraf was confronted at his office and told to stop supporting PTM. Dr. Zain ul Abideen’s house was searched when he was not home and his mother and sister were threatened.

Countless people around the country have gone missing this year after being associated with PTM. Ironically, one of PTM’s main demands is an end to enforced disappearance and for Pashtun missing persons to be brought before the courts of law and given their constitutional right to a fair trial. Other demands include an end to ethnic profiling of Pashtuns as militants, an end to collective punishment against entire tribes, an end to curfews over minor incidents and the removal of landmines from tribal areas.

PTM is demanding basic human rights such as freedom of speech, assembly, movement and association. And most importantly, the right to life and fair trial. If these missing persons were guilty of breaking laws, an FIR should have been filed against them and the police and courts should have been allowed to do their job. State agencies cannot uphold the writ of the state by breaking the law. Undermining the rule of law is ultimately damaging to the state itself.

Bilawal Bhutto has stated that PTM’s demands are genuine and Maryam Nawaz has called on law enforcement agencies to release arrested PTM leaders. Despite these demands seeming reasonable to many, a tremendous effort is being made to censor PTM activists and shut down their non-violent, grassroots movement. In fact, PTM leader, Manzoor Pashteen’s Twitter account has recently been suspended and news websites publishing articles that paint a favourable picture of PTM are being blocked. Since political leaders like Bilawal Bhutto and Maryam Nawaz are supporting PTM’s constitutional right to protest, one wonders who or what is behind the abductions. And what are they afraid of?

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