Pakistani Activist Critical Of Military Returns Home After Disappearing A Year Ago

A missing Pakistani activist has returned home more than one year after he was allegedly picked up by the country’s military spy agency for criticizing the army, fellow activists said on March 10.

“Samar Abbas has returned home and he is safe,” said Talib Abbas, the activist’s colleague at the Civil Progressive Alliance Pakistan, the organization they worked for.

Samar Abbas went missing mysteriously in January 2017 while visiting Islamabad along with four other activists and bloggers whose writing was critical of the army’s interference in politics.

Television commentators thought to be close to the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) spy agency later accused Abbas and others of being behind a Facebook page which they said had committed blasphemy.

Blasphemy is a highly charged allegation in Pakistan, where insulting the Prophet Muhammad is punishable by death and even being accused could lead to mob violence and lynchings.

The other bloggers returned home one by one nearly a month after their disappearance from different cities, and at least two of them said they were kidnapped and tortured by ISI agents. The military denied the accusations.

Several of them have since fled Pakistan, fearing for their lives.

Abbas's colleague Talib did not say exactly when he returned home, but The Express Tribune newspaper reported he was released on the outskirts of the southern city of Karachi on March 6.

The disappearance of civilians, especially those critical of the military, is common in Pakistan.

In December, social activist Raza Khan, whose organization worked for people-to-people contacts between Pakistan and rival India, went missing from the eastern city of Lahore. Khan has not been heard from since.

On the day of his disappearance, Khan had posted comments on Facebook critical of the military and its suspected link to Islamist hard-liners

Based on reporting by dpa and Reuters