Abducted blogger breaks silence after recovery

By AFP
Published: February 9, 2017
SHARES
Email

ISLAMABAD: A digital activist abducted last month has broken his silence on his weeks-long disappearance, but is refusing to point fingers at the abductors.

Ahmad Waqass Goraya was among five activists who vanished from different cities of Pakistan in early January.

Human Rights Watch, opposition lawmakers and activists have said their near simultaneous abductions pointed to government involvement in a country with a history of enforced disappearances.

Families of missing activists deny blasphemy charges 

Goraya was freed at the end of January along with at least three others and swiftly fled back to the Netherlands, where he has lived for the last decade.

“I felt I would never come back, I would never see my son and family,” the 34-year-old told AFP during a phone interview in which he frequently became agitated.

Goraya, who like the other activists criticised religious extremism and the military establishment, refused to say anything about his captors or describe what happened during his ordeal.

But he angrily rejected accusations that he was a traitor for daring to be vocal about alleged abuses of power in the country, insisting he was a true patriot.

“Nothing was against Pakistan, nothing was against Islam, I was critical of policies because I want to see a better Pakistan,” he said, adding in a later message: “We want a Pakistan with rule of law”.

Recovery of missing activists our top priority, says Nisar

Goraya also said he fears a virulent ultra right-wing campaign to paint him as a blasphemer while he was missing has followed him to Europe.

The charge, which engulfed social media and was repeated by mainstream television hosts, is an incendiary one that can carry the death penalty in the country.

Even unproven allegations have caused mob lynchings and violence. At least 65 people including lawyers, judges and activists have been murdered by vigilantes over blasphemy allegations since 1990, according to the Center for Research and Security Studies.

Goraya said allegations of blasphemy had surfaced on social media sites frequented by the Pakistani community in the Netherlands, prompting him to seek police advice.

“I’m looking over my shoulder – I have been warned by people it is a crazy world.”

Officials have denied any role in the disappearances, which sparked protests in cities across the country by progressives concerned that the space for free speech is shrinking.

But, said Goraya, they have had their intended chilling effect.

“Hundreds of our friends deactivated their (social media) accounts, their pages,” Goraya said, adding that well-known liberal blog “Roshni” (whose name means “light” in Urdu) was among those deleted, despite the fact its administrator was based in London.

His three-year-old son, meanwhile, has been deeply traumatised by his father’s weeks-long disappearance and its impact on his family.

“What can you tell a three-year-old kid, all he can see are his mother and grandparents screaming and crying,” Goraya said.

He described how the once quiet child now lashes out. “He’s yelling and slapping and beating — that’s what I would say is the worst loss I suffer.”

Goraya said he has spent almost a decade in the Netherlands but had come to Pakistan in late 2016 to gauge the possibility of returning to Lahore with his family.

“I could have applied for Dutch citizenship after five years but we never went that way — it would mean giving up my Pakistani passport,” he said.

“The plan was to move permanently back to Pakistan. But now we have to replan our whole life. “

Facebook Conversations

Reader Comments (8)

  • Farru
    Feb 9, 2017 - 2:37PM

    Chilling effectRecommend

  • Feroz
    Feb 9, 2017 - 2:40PM

    Goraya has not broken his silence, he has kept his silence. The headline is misleading.Recommend

  • salman
    Feb 9, 2017 - 3:31PM

    LOL he seems scared. Will think 100 times before commenting anything on social media moving forward.Recommend

  • Jamal
    Feb 9, 2017 - 3:59PM

    So, who took him? Why is he not saying that?Recommend

  • yep
    Feb 10, 2017 - 4:15AM

    If possible, he should move to a country where he is free to expess his opnion. Recommend

  • Majid
    Feb 10, 2017 - 4:17PM

    The only thing that could be inferred out of this “breaks silence” interview is that he is accepting those social media pages but justifying them as “I want to see a better Pakistan”, and ending up with escaping abroad, and leaving behind not so better Pakistan.Recommend

  • Anjum Amin Siddiqui
    Feb 10, 2017 - 6:52PM

    We live in two extremes in fact ruled by them. The Religious Zealots and the Liberal Fascist both has made this country a battle ground.. Zia regime put sittar & tabla which the Benazir government change with Guitar & drum. This activity is continuing as a result fabric of society has gone. Allegations of blasphemy is as damaging as ridiculing religion or state. Recommend

  • Rahul
    Feb 10, 2017 - 7:21PM

    @Anjum Amin Siddiqui:

    The so called Liberal Fascists don’t go around killing people or disappearing them. They are just asking questions that any normal society should ask and expect to get answers for. The very fact this kind of extreme reaction came in response to a few blog posts means they are closer to the truth than some people are willing to tolerate.Recommend

Leave Your Reply Below

Your comments may appear in The Express Tribune paper. For this reason we encourage you to provide your city. The Express Tribune does not bear any responsibility for user comments.

Comments are moderated and generally will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive. For more information, please see our Comments FAQ.

More in Pakistan