Senior journalist’s daylight ‘abduction’ had prompted outrage on social media—both locally and abroad
Senior journalist Matiullah Jan was released late on Tuesday, hours after being ‘abducted’ by plainclothes and uniformed men in Islamabad, prompting global condemnations and demands for his immediate release.
In a posting on Twitter, journalist Azaz Syed shared a picture with Jan, saying the missing journalist had been dropped off near Fateh Jang around 11 p.m. He said Jan had claimed he was blindfolded and driven around for several hours before being taken to an unknown location and set free.
The ‘abduction’—alternately referred to as ‘arrest’ by opposition lawmakers—was caught on CCTV cameras and raised questions about the levels of impunity with which the alleged abductors were allowed to operate in the federal capital.
The abduction of the journalist, already facing a contempt of court hearing in the Supreme Court over an allegedly offensive tweet, also prompted claims on social media that he had “staged” the abduction to avoid the hearing. This belief has been roundly derided.
According to the CCTV footage available to media, around half a dozen men surrounded Jan’s car around 11 a.m. while he was outside the Government Girls School—where his wife works—in Islamabad’s sector G-6. The footage shows the journalist being dragged into one of the waiting vehicles, as well as him throwing his mobile phone into the school. A uniformed man can then be seen demanding that the school staff immediately hand the phone to him, following which the journalist was taken away.
Islamabad police announced shortly after the incident that they had no knowledge of the ‘abduction,’ and Jan’s brother, Shahid Akbar Abbasi, lodged a First Information Report against unidentified persons under Section 365 of the Pakistan Penal Code with them. He also filed a habeas corpus petition before the Islamabad High Court, demanding his brother either be freed or formally charged. In his petition, Abbasi notes that his brother is a vocal critic of the government and security establishment and was abducted by unknown persons in broad daylight.
In response, IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah demanded police produce Jan in court on Wednesday morning. Jan’s hearing into his allegedly contemptuous tweet is also likely to be taken up by the Supreme Court today.
Jan’s abduction had provoked an outpouring of concern and condemnation from political parties, lawmakers, lawyers, journalists’ groups, human rights organizations, and diplomats. The Senate Standing Committee on Human Rights took up the matter, while Human Rights Minister Shireen Mazari and Information Minister Shibli Faraz both said they had been contacted Islamabad police to ensure his safe and speedy return.
Diplomats based in Islamabad, including Canadian High Commissioner to Pakistan Wendy Gilmour, termed it a “worrying development” and hoped he would soon be freed. German Ambassador to Pakistan Bernhard Schlagheck posted on Twitter that such “developments underline once again how dangerous the situation of journalists in Pakistan is.”