Missing Activists

On Tuesday, the news broke that the Progressive Youth Alliance (PYA) accused law-enforcement agencies of picking up its four activists for supporting the campaign launched by the Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM) in recent multiple demonstrations.

PYA joins a long series of movements, organisation and media houses which allege that their activists and journalists have been mysteriously picked up by unknown institutions. Throughout history, enforced disappearances have been a stain on Pakistan’s image, and undermine democracy, civilian supremacy and due process in the most brutal manner. If the allegation against enforced disappearances by the law-enforcement agencies are true, it constitutes aberration of the constitution, as it involves punishing activists for using their constitutionally guaranteed right to freedom of speech, and denies them due process of law.

Even though reports indicate that two of the nine missing activists were released, that still does not solve the problem. The real pernicious issue of enforced disappearances is the society of fear and terror it creates. The objective of those carrying out these disappearances is to spread a message, and to curtail freedom of speech and expression through threat and fear. There must be apology, and an attempt to regain the trust of the people which was lost by picking up activists.

Although Pakistan has been notorious for enforced disappearances throughout history, it is time that our law enforcement authorities recognise that disappearances and threat will not work, not in this age and time of political awareness and social media platforms. Enforced disappearances do not even fulfill their objective, as it has been time and time again proved that forcefully shutting mouths does not silence the voice of the activists. The only result such tactics achieve is the dirtying of Pakistan’s image, when international media ‘pick up’ and cover the story.

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