Following is the full version of the article that appeared on The New on Sunday today, January 15th, 2017. The TNS article can be accessed here.
In the past one week three bloggers went missing in Pakistan. No one knows their crime but everyone knows why they have disappeared. Reports are pouring in that there might be several other bloggers and activists who are missing. Those missing seem to share a few common characters. They either ran blogs or contributed to ones that criticised religious bigotry and the security establishment’s heavy involvement in the state’s political affairs. Their political activism seemed to focus on spreading progressive or liberal ideas and a desire to make Pakistan a more democratic state where its institutions are accountable to its elected civilian representatives. How do we make sense of their disappearance? For the longest time the liberals and the progressives thought that the state’s security apparatus won’t touch them simply because they didn’t count too much. That remains true today. One can see the same 20 faces that have appeared in every protest organised by the liberals and the left wing political groups in this country. This remains true for protests being organised in Lahore, Karachi, and Islamabad. You see the same faces appear in front of the press club; chanting slogans and making the same kind of demands. Nobody bothers to stop and ask them why they are there. Nobody cusses at them while sitting in the car because they are not even a traffic nuisance. Why would the security agencies pick someone of this ilk? What danger these individuals posed to the national security apparatus that warranted such an action?