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Liquidating Liberals

by Newsweek Pakistan

Aamir Qureshi—AFP

Pakistan’s war on liberal thought has claimed five more victims.

Amnesty International, the United Nations and Human Rights Watch have all taken notice of the abduction of five human rights activists—at times labeled “liberal”—after media reports highlighted the manner in which they ‘disappeared.’ Salman Haider, Waqas Goraya, Asim Saeed, Ahmed Raza Naseer, and Samar Abbas were known for their social media activism and for “expressing views on human rights issues and state policies.”

The manner of their kidnapping from Islamabad and Lahore has aroused suspicions that they might have been grabbed by Pakistan’s intelligence agencies. Haider’s abductors contacted his wife by phone and told her where she could recover his abandoned car. One victim actually asked his family—through his kidnappers—to give them his laptop, which was done. The family, unsurprisingly, is now convinced that the state is behind his abduction. However, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan has told a worried Senate that the state is not involved and that the government will do all in its power to recover the disappeared “liberals.”

The state has been suspected of picking up—and even killed, as in the case of journalist Saleem Shahzad—people it deems “stepping out of line.” But the truth is that Pakistan’s orientation in recent years has been against liberal thinking, defense of minorities and the rigor of religious edicts, such as the laws against blasphemy. Our media is generally conservative, castigates freethinking critics, and often backs terrorist organizations and madrassas fighting the state’s civilizational wars at the global level.

That anyone can be abducted in Islamabad is today an accepted condition because of the presence of scores of illegal madrassas where terrorists can lodge while preparing to kill big leaders like Benazir Bhutto. It is sad to realize that every time such a tragedy happens, the state is blamed together with the killers it should protect the people against.

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