A prominent Pakistani journalist has been freed and was back home Wednesday, a day after armed agents intercepted his car, grabbed and whisked him away in broad daylight. The abduction drew an immediate outcry from almost all opposition parties in Pakistan, human rights activists and the journalist's colleagues.
The journalist, Matiullah Jan, known for his criticism of the country’s powerful institutions, including its military, confirmed that he was freed on Tuesday night. He told The Associated Press that he was back with his family but refused to share any details about his detention, which lasted about 12 hours.
Human rights activists welcomed Jan's release as did Pakistani minister for science and technology, Fawad Chaudhry, who had also condemned the abduction.
I am back home safe & sound. God has been kind to me & my family. I am grateful to friends, national & int. journalist community, political parties, social media & rights activists, lawyers bodies, the judiciary for their quick response which made it possible.— Matiullah Jan (@Matiullahjan919) July 22, 2020
About 10 armed men in three vehicles grabbed Jan soon after he arrived on Tuesday morning to pick up his wife from a school in Islamabad where she teaches. Closed-circuit TV footage showed the armed men surrounding his car; witnesses said he was thrown into a vehicle in broad daylight and taken away.
Jan's colleagues and human rights activists condemned the abduction, putting pressure on the government that was apparently critical to his speedy release. His abductors freed him on a road on the outskirts of Islamabad, said Aizaz Syed, a friend and TV journalist in Islamabad.
Glad to know that #MatiullahJan is back. But with clear video record of abduction it shouldn’t be difficult to arrest the kidnapers and bring the masterminds to book. It’s important for the recovery of thousands of others and establishing rule of law. Hope IHC issues directions.— Afrasiab Khattak (@a_siab) July 22, 2020
Jan said he would make a formal statement in court when he gets to defend himself in connection with a contempt case initiated by the Supreme Court over one of his recent tweets criticizing the judiciary.
Athar Minallah, chief justice at the Islamabad High Court, asked police to investigate the abduction, which he described as alarming and unacceptable.
Earlier, Jan's wife Kaneez Sughra told the media that he was in a state of shock when he got home and that his abductors had harassed him. She did not elaborate.
The government did not make any statements about the incident and none of the Pakistani intelligence agencies acknowledged abducting Jan.
Thank you very much everybody for raising voice for @Matiullahjan919 and running trend of #BringBackMatiullah. Because of collective pressure of journalists/anchors/civil society and rights bodies #matiullahjan is back and safe Alhamdulillah 😇— Asad Ali Toor (@AsadAToor) July 21, 2020
Before coming to power, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan had pledged to put a stop to enforced disappearances by intelligence agencies, even promising to resign if he could not end such practices.
The independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan on Tuesday demanded “the government immediately ensure" Jan's safety and freedom.
In 2018, Jan was labeled “anti-state” by the military's spokesperson at the time, Maj. Gen. Ghafoor. He has called the ongoing crackdown on Pakistan's media outlets “a systematic attempt by the military and its intelligence agencies to assert control with the facade of a democratically elected government.”