Following the abduction of senior journalist Matiullah Jan from Islamabad’s G-6 sector and his subsequent release on July 21, Tuesday, several human rights groups, including the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), Amnesty International, Freedom Network, Pakistan Bar Association, Pakistan Bar Council, along with the journalist community, have raised concerns about the curbing of political dissent in the country and condemned the incident.
Jan was kidnapped on Tuesday morning near the college his wife works at. A national and international outrage broke out following the incident. Later his brother, lawyer Shahid Abbasi, got a call regarding his release. “Someone called from an unknown number to tell me to come to Fatehjang which is located on the Islamabad outskirts, and take Matiullah home.” After being released, Jan tweeted, “I am back home safe and sound. God has been kind to me and my family. I am grateful to friends, national and international journalist community, political parties, social media and rights activists, lawyers bodies, the judiciary for their quick response which made it possible.”
“We are deeply concerned at increasing attempts to control the media, suppress independent voices, and curb political dissent, thereby creating an environment of constant fear,” HRCP’s chairperson Mehdi Hasan said in a statement.
“Matiullah Jan has stood courageously by the people of Pakistan striving to realize their constitutional and fundamental rights… Jan’s abduction is an act of cowardice and warrants immediate redressal,” Hasan added.
Jan, known for his harsh criticism of the Pakistani military and the ruling dispensation headed by prime minister Imran Khan, was attacked by unidentified persons back in September 2017, as well. The journalist has become more vocal with his criticisms after resigning from his Waqt News talk show. Last week, the Supreme Court issued a notice to Jan for his social media post in which he also criticized the judiciary.
While condemning the abduction attempt on Jan and the overall censorship in the country, secretary general of Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists, Nasir Zaidi added that “Matiullah’s criticism is not being tolerated by the government and its institutions.”
The general secretary of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, Harris Khalique, also responded to the incident saying, “how can someone be picked up without any warrant and charge just because you do not agree with his opinion?”
According to Pakistan Bar Council vice-president Abid Saqi, the political situation in the country is “worrisome” with those expressing critical opinions facing repression.
Reporters Without Border placed Pakistan at the 145th rank among 180 countries in its 2020 World Press Freedom Index.