Ahmad Farhad: Amnesty says Pakistani poet and journalist has been abducted

File. A security personnel stands guard outside the Islamabad High Court in Islamabad on 29 August 2023 (AFP via Getty Images)
File. A security personnel stands guard outside the Islamabad High Court in Islamabad on 29 August 2023 (AFP via Getty Images)

Ahmad Farhad, a Pakistani journalist and poet, has been missing for more than a week amid concerns from his family that he has been abducted, global human rights group Amnesty International said.

Mr Farhad’s family alleged that he was forcibly “disappeared” from his home in Islamabad on the night of 14 May when he was returning home late from dinner.

Amnesty said the family witnessed Mr Farhad being taken away.

Mr Farhad’s family submitted a petition to the Islamabad High Court, claiming that he had been abducted from outside his home by the country’s powerful spy agency, Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), due to his criticism of the authorities.

Pakistan’s government denies that Mr Farhad, 38, is held by the ISI.

However, the court has demanded security forces to present Mr Farhad within four days and said failure to comply may result in the summoning of senior government officials for questioning.

Amnesty International called on the authorities to investigate and said Mr Farhad’s “whereabouts remain unknown”.

“Information regarding Ahmad’s whereabouts must be made known, and he must be released immediately. The authorities must ensure an effective, prompt, thorough, independent and impartial investigation is conducted into the circumstances of Ahmad’s enforced disappearance,” the organisation said.

Mr Farhad is originally from the Bagh district of Pakistan-administered Kashmir and is known for his criticism of the Pakistan military establishment.

His wife Syeda Rooj Zainab told Al Jazeera that two days after the alleged abduction, she received a message from Mr Farhad via WhatsApp, urging her to retract her court petition in exchange for his safe return.

“I could tell he was being coerced into sending the message. He asked me to withdraw my petition, and he would return home. He also said he is away for some private business, but it was clearly a forced statement,” she said.

Mr Farhad is a journalist with 15 years of experience and has worked for a range of mainstream Pakistani TV news channels, including Bol News, Hum News, Neo News and Capital TV.

He is also a renowned Urdu poet, who has raised political themes such as enforced disappearances in his poetry, according to Amnesty International.

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) also wrote on X and demanded that Mr Farhad be “released immediately by the authorities”.

“HRCP demands that such abductions and arrests of those seen as political dissenters must come to an end immediately. There can be no compromise on artistic freedoms and freedom of expression.”

According to Amnesty International, “enforced disappearances have been used in Pakistan to silence journalists, human rights defenders, dissenters and groups belonging to minority populations, particularly from Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa”.

It noted that “there is no law criminalising enforced disappearances and there persists a lack of accountability from the state. Families of the disappeared are regularly subject to harassment, surveillance and intimidation by the state for demanding accountability for their loved ones”.

The practice of enforced disappearances violates the right to liberty, right to a fair trial and the right to freedom from torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, the human rights group said.