Enforced Disappearances of Journalists and Poets in Pakistan: A Growing Crisis

Ahmad Farhad, a Kashmiri journalist and poet, was forcibly disappeared in May 2024, leading to his reappearance in police custody and highlighting Pakistan's urgent need to address enforced disappearances.

Enforced Disappearances of Journalists and Poets in Pakistan: A Growing Crisis
Photo Source: Pexels, by David Peinado, March 15th, 2022


Eleonora Bruno

Pakistan Researcher,

Global Human Rights Defence


In a troubling sequence of events that has captured international attention, Ahmad Farhad, a well-known Kashmiri journalist and poet, was forcibly disappeared from his home in Islamabad on May 15, 2024. Farhad, a vocal critic of enforced disappearances and a supporter of social movements, was taken by four men in plain clothes in the dead of night. His abduction is emblematic of the increasingly perilous environment for journalists and activists in Pakistan.

Farhad's disappearance triggered a series of legal and extrajudicial manoeuvres. His family immediately filed a habeas corpus petition at the Islamabad High Court, leading to an official investigation. However, despite these efforts, his whereabouts remained unknown for two weeks. On May 29, Farhad reappeared in the custody of police in Pakistan-administered Jammu and Kashmir. The circumstances of his reappearance have raised significant concerns among human rights organisations and media watchdogs. Upon resurfacing, Farhad was charged with "obstructing a public servant in discharge of public functions" at a check post in Kohala, near Muzaffarabad. This initial charge was soon followed by more severe allegations, including charges related to terrorism and unlawful assembly, stemming from his alleged involvement in social media activities critical of state policies and supportive of the Kashmir Long March. The Kashmir Long March, organised by the Jammu Kashmir Joint Awami Action Committee (JAAC), demanded economic rights and protested against high electricity tariffs and inadequate wheat subsidies. The peaceful protests turned violent, resulting in the deaths of four individuals, including a police officer. Although Farhad was not physically present at the protests, his critical social media posts were deemed provocative by the authorities, leading to his implication in the incident. Farhad's case highlights the broader issue of enforced disappearances in Pakistan, a tactic frequently used against journalists, human rights defenders, and political dissenters. The country lacks specific legislation criminalising enforced disappearances, and there is a persistent lack of accountability for such actions by state authorities. Families of the disappeared often face harassment and intimidation, compounding their trauma. The case of Ahmad Farhad underscores the urgent need for Pakistan to address the issue of enforced disappearances and ensure the protection of journalists and activists who are vital to the country's democratic fabric. The world watches closely as Ahmad Farhad, a symbol of resilience and courage, continues his fight for justice and freedom of expression.




Sources and further readings:

Amnesty International. (July 3rd, 2024). Journalist and Poet Faces Charges After Abduction.  https://www.amnesty.org/en/documents/asa33/8257/2024/en/.  [Accessed July 8th, 2024].