ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s information minister said on Tuesday it was “certain” that prominent Pakistani journalist Matiullah Jan had been “abducted” in Islamabad, saying it was the government’s duty to recover him.
Jan’s younger brother has filed a petition before the Islamabad High Court saying Jan’s wife feared he had been “picked up by some unknown persons” after his car was found near her workplace with the windows open and the key in the ignition.
Jan is a well-known critic of the Pakistani security establishment, and has complained in the past of having been intimidated by authorities.
“I assure you that we don’t have complete information but one thing is certain that he has been abducted,” information minister Shibli Faraz told reporters. “We will try our best that we may know where he is and what steps should be taken to recover him. This is the duty of the government.”
Police have not yet commented on Jan’s ‘disappearance’ but Shahid Akbar Abbasi, his younger brother and a lawyer in Islamabad, told Arab News Jan’s wife had called him in the morning and said her husband had been “kidnapped” from outside the school where she works.
“Elder brother Matiullah Jan … was coming to pick his spouse from Government School G-6/3. However the spouse found him missing when she came out from the school,” the court petition filed by Abbasi says. “The car was unlocked, the windows were open, the keys were inside.”
Abbasi told Arab News the family would file a police case.
CCTV footage widely shared on social media, but which Arab News could not independently verify, showed men in plain clothes arriving in at least two vehicles and forcefully bundling Jan into a car. One clip showed him hurling his cellphone into the school, after which a security guard asked a teacher to retrieve the phone and hand it over, which she did. It was not clear in the footage if she had given the phone to one of the kidnappers or a school guard.
On Tuesday afternoon, just hours after Jan’s disappearance, a tweet from his official Twitter account, purportedly posted by his son, said: “Matiullahjan, my father, has been abducted from the heart of the capital Islamabad. I demand he be foundُ and the agencies behind it immediately be held responsible. God keep him safe.”
Amnesty International said in a tweet it was “extremely concerned” about Jan’s wellbeing: “He has been the subject of physical attacks and harassment for his journalism. The authorities must establish his whereabouts immediately.”
The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan said: “HRCP demands that the government immediately ensure the safe recovery of journalist@Matiullahjan919, whose family confirms that he has gone #missing.”
Opposition Pakistan People’s Party chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and Human Rights Minister Shireen Mazari both took to Twitter to express concern over Jan’s disappearance.
Extremely concerned at news that @Matiullahjan919 has been abducted from Islamabad. The selected government must immediately insure his safe return. This is not only an attack on media freedoms & democracy but on all of us. Today it is Matiuallah, tomorrow it could be you or I.
— BilawalBhuttoZardari (@BBhuttoZardari) July 21, 2020
Just informed about @Matiullahjan919 kidnapping. Have taken note and spoken to the IG Islamabad who informed me they are looking into it. Very disturbing.
— Shireen Mazari (@ShireenMazari1) July 21, 2020
In 2011, Saleem Shahzad, a Pakistani journalist who went missing from the capital Islamabad, was found dead in eastern Pakistan, in a case that revived debate about the freedom of the press in the country.
In January 2018, journalist Taha Siddiqui said he had narrowly escaped being kidnapped by armed men, in an incident that came months after he complained of being harassed by security services