ISLAMABAD: A prominent Pakistani journalist, Matiullah Jan, known for his staunch criticism of the country’s powerful military establishment, was abducted from Islamabad in broad daylight on Tuesday, his family said.
Jan’s wife Kaneez Sughra, who teaches at a government-run school for girls, said her husband, a freelance journalist, had dropped her to the school in Islamabad’s G-6 sector at 9.30 am.
“Around an hour later I heard that a scuffle was going on outside the school gate but I couldn’t hear my husband’s voice. When I called him at 1.15 pm, he was not answering,” she said, adding that when she went outside the school, she saw that their car was still where Jan had dropped her. “The car was unlocked, the windows open and the keys and one of his cell phones inside it,” she said.
Later Jan’s son tweeted from his father’s account, “Matiullah Jan, my father, has been abducted from the heart of the capital (Islamabad). I demand he be found and the agencies behind it immediately be held responsible. God keep him safe.”
According to the police, Jan was last seen outside the school. “He came here to drop his wife and his car is still standing here,” said Shaukat Mehmood, a police investigator. “We are investigating the case but no formal charges have been filed yet,” he said.
Unverified CCTV footage of his alleged abduction was being shared by journalists on social media but the avoided commenting on it.
Security footage captured by the school where Sughra teaches showed several men force Jan into a sedan outside the main gate, according to the newspaper Dawn. The footage showed Jan tossing a mobile phone over the school fence, only for a school security guard to hand it back to a man in uniform, according to the newspaper.
Ahead of his disappearance, Jan had posted on Twitter an interview of a journalist who was suffering financially due to unemployment. “This is for the attention of those who sit in the simulated (sic) air-conditioned environment of rule of law in Pakistan and who think criticism on (sic) them is a bigger crime than the violation of the inviolable dignity of a human being,” he wrote on Twitter in the morning.
Jan was due to appear in the Supreme Court this week after it took suo motu cognizance of an allegedly contemptuous tweet in which he had criticised the judges.
Jan, known for his outspoken political commentary, had grown increasingly critical of Prime Minister Imran Khan’s government since it came into power in 2018. Due to pressure from hidden quarters, he was forced to resign as host of a talk show on a private TV channel. He was also very vocal in criticising the country’s military, which has directly ruled the country at different times for over three decades.
“We are extremely concerned for the fate and well-being of Matiullah Jan,” Amnesty International said shortly after his disappearance. “He has been the subject of physical attacks and harassment for his journalism. The authorities must establish his whereabouts immediately,” Amnesty added.
The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) demanded that the government “immediately ensure his safe recovery”.
Dawn’s editor, Zaffar Abbas, termed the development “extremely disturbing” and “highly condemnable” and called upon editors to play their role by airing news of his disappearance. Dawn’s former editor, Abbas Nasir, tweeted about Jan’s disappearance, saying that “such acts of desperation will not prolong this fascist era”.
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