Fifth activist reported missing in Pakistan, alarming rights groups

Supporters of Awami Worker Party and civil society members chant slogans during a demonstration to condemn the missing human rights activists in Islamabad, Pakistan, on Jan. 10, 2017. (AP Photo/Anjum Naveed)
Updated 11 January 2017
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Fifth activist reported missing in Pakistan, alarming rights groups

ISLAMABAD: A Pakistani social activist has gone missing from the capital Islamabad, a colleagues said on Wednesday, days after four other campaigners disappeared in a way that has alarmed supporters of free speech.
Samar Abbas, president of the Civil Progressive Alliance of Pakistan (CPAP), an anti-extremism activist group, went missing on Saturday, according to Talib Raza, who worked with him at the Karachi-based organization.
Abbas’s brother, also named Talib, told local media on Wednesday that his brother had vanished over the weekend.
“The family waited for a few days to inform people. When the stories about other activists disappearing started emerging, it became clear what was going on,” Raza told Reuters.
It is not known how the four activists went missing last week, but some rights groups and newspapers are questioning whether state or military agencies were in any way involved.
The Interior Ministry has said it is doing all it can to recover the missing men.
“This government is not in the business of disappearing people and we will not tolerate such disappearances while we are in power,” said Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar, according to English-language Dawn newspaper.
A Dawn editorial on Tuesday implicated the state in the disappearance of the missing activists, including poet and rights activist Salman Haider, who has written columns for the newspaper and went missing on January 6 in Islamabad.
The other three are social media activists who have often voiced secular or anti-government views.
“Now, with the disappearance of Salman Haider and at least three other activists, a dark new chapter in the state’s murky, illegal war against civil society appears to have been opened,” the Dawn editorial said.
The United Nations and international human rights organizations, including Human Rights Watch, on Wednesday also voiced concerns about the disappearance.
The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights highlighted in a statement the difficulties surrounding free expression in Pakistan.
Human rights lawyer Jibran Nasir has filed an application with Pakistan’s Supreme Court requesting judicial intervention. The Supreme Court has not yet responded to his request.
“By intimidating and picking up social media activists like this, they have taken away our microphones,” Nasir told Reuters.
Activists held rallies in several major city across Pakistan on Tuesday calling for the recovery of the missing activists.


Trump’s travel ban faces US Supreme Court showdown

Updated 22 April 2018
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Trump’s travel ban faces US Supreme Court showdown

  • The high court has never decided the legal merits of the travel ban.
  • The challengers have argued the policy was motivated by Trump’s enmity toward Muslims.

WASHINGTON: The first big showdown at the US Supreme Court over President Donald Trump’s immigration policies is set for Wednesday when the justices hear a challenge to the lawfulness of his travel ban targeting people from several Muslim-majority countries.
The case represents a test of the limits of presidential power. Trump’s policy, announced in September, blocks entry into the US of most people from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen. Chad previously was on the list but Trump lifted those restrictions on April 10.
The high court has never decided the legal merits of the travel ban or any other major Trump immigration policy, including his move to rescind protections for young immigrants sometimes called Dreamers brought into the US illegally as children. It has previously acted on Trump requests to undo lower court orders blocking those two policies, siding with him on the travel ban and opposing him on the Dreamers. Trump’s immigration policies — also including actions taken against states and cities that protect illegal immigrants, intensified deportation efforts and limits on legal immigration — have been among his most contentious. 
The conservative-majority Supreme Court is due to hear arguments on Wednesday on the third version of a travel ban policy Trump first sought to implement a week after taking office in January 2017, and issue a ruling by the end of June. 
The lead challenger is the state of Hawaii, which argues the ban violates federal immigration law and the US Constitution’s prohibition on the government favoring one religion over another.
“Right now, the travel ban is keeping families apart. It is degrading our values by subjecting a specific set of people to be denigrated and marginalized,” Hawaii Lt. Governor Doug Chin said in an interview.
The Supreme Court on Dec. 4 signaled it may lean toward backing Trump when it granted the administration’s request to let the ban go into full effect while legal challenges played out.
In another immigration-related case, the justices on April 17 invalidated a provision in a US law requiring deportation of immigrants convicted of certain crimes of violence. Trump’s administration and the prior Obama administration had defended the provision.
'Politically correct'
Trump has said the travel ban is needed to protect the US from terrorism by militants. Just before the latest ban was announced, Trump wrote on Twitter that the restrictions “should be far larger, tougher and more specific — but stupidly that would not be politically correct!“
The challengers have argued the policy was motivated by Trump’s enmity toward Muslims, pressing that point in lower courts with some success by citing statements he made as a candidate and as president. As a candidate, Trump promised “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.”
The Justice Department argues Trump’s statements as a candidate carry no weight because he was not yet president. The policy’s challengers also point to views he has expressed as president, including his retweets in November of anti-Muslim videos posted by a far-right British political figure.
In a court filing last week, US Solicitor General Noel Francisco, representing Trump in court, said those retweets “do not address the meaning” of the travel ban policy.
Francisco cited Trump statements complimentary toward Muslims and Islam, including in a May 2017 speech in Saudi Arabia.
In defending the ban, the administration has pointed to a waiver provision allowing people from targeted countries to seek entry if they meet certain criteria. The State Department said that as of last month 375 waivers to the travel ban had been granted since the policy went into effect on Dec 8.