Lahore, May 31: The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has expressed serious alarm at the disappearance of journalist Saleem Shahzad and reports that he might have been abducted by a state agency.
Shahzad, Pakistan bureau chief of Asia Times Online, had gone missing after he left his house in Islamabad on Sunday evening to participate in a television talk show. He never reached the office of the private TV channel.
A statement issued by the Commission on Tuesday said, “HRCP has serious concern at the disappearance of journalist Saleem Shahzad. Reports that a state agency might have been involved in his disappearance are exceedingly disturbing. It has been suggested that Shahzad’s reporting after a terrorist attack on a navy aviation base in Karachi might have something to do with his abduction. Unconfirmed reports suggest that his captors have informed Shahzad’s friends and family through anonymous calls that he would be released soon.
HRCP must remind the government of the numerous threats that journalists in Pakistan already have to contend with without having to worry about abduction by state agents as well. HRCP calls upon the government to ensure safe recovery of the journalist and demands that those who have detained him are identified and effectively prosecuted.
If members of any state agency are found involved they must be proceeded against in an open trial to deter future disregard of the law and the proceedings against them must reflect the indignation over their illegal actions and use of resources meant for protecting the people to indulge in crime against the people. Even if state agents are not involved, the government is expected to ensure that journalists are allowed to carry on their work in an atmosphere free from intimidation and threats to personal safety. Bringing Shahzad’s abductors to justice is crucial because perpetrators of crimes against journalists in the country have generally enjoyed impunity. The government must make sure that that does not happen yet again.”