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Human Rights Violations

Kashmiri journalist & poet Ahmad Farhad abducted in Pakistan

Ahmad Farhad, a Kashmiri journalist and poet, was forcibly disappeared from his home in Islamabad, Pakistan.



Ahmad Farhad

On May 15, 2024, Ahmad Farhad, a Kashmiri journalist and poet, was forcibly disappeared from his home in Islamabad, Pakistan. Initially, the police refused to file a First Information Report (FIR), but it was later filed on the orders of the Islamabad High Court.

The abduction of Ahmad Farhad

A missing person, a desperate family, a powerful security apparatus, and a court trying to decode conflicting claims to dispense justice—this is a story that has been repeated in Pakistan for years.

Hours after Ahmad Farhad went missing on the night of May 14, his family petitioned the Islamabad High Court (IHC), claiming that he had been disappeared from outside his home by the country’s powerful spy agency, Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), due to his criticism of the authorities.

The Pakistani government, as expected, denied that he was in ISI custody. However, on Tuesday, the court demanded that security forces produce Farhad within four days, warning that senior government officials would otherwise be summoned for intense questioning.

Who is Ahmad Farhad?

Ahmad Farhad is a Kashmiri poet & journalist who was previously associated with various media outlets, including Bol News, but has recently been working as a freelance journalist and has frequently reported on the recent antigovernment protests in Pakistan-administered Kashmir.

Originally from the Bagh district of Pakistan-administered Kashmir, the 38-year-old Farhad is well-known for his outspoken criticism of Pakistan’s powerful establishment, often a euphemism for the military.

Syeda Urooj Zainab, his wife, told Al Jazeera that her husband had been under pressure from government agencies for several months due to his perceived support for the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party of former Prime Minister Imran Khan, who is currently imprisoned on various charges he denies. Pakistan’s government and military accuse Khan’s supporters of orchestrating a violent attack on state institutions in May 2023, after the former PM was arrested.

Zainab emphasized that her husband’s ultimate loyalty was to human rights, not any political party. “My husband has always stood for human rights, regardless of any affiliation,” she said.

When did Ahmad Farhad go missing, and why?

Ahmad Farhad was returning home after dinner late on Tuesday night when four men grabbed him outside the gate of his house and dragged him into a car.

“It was past midnight on May 15 when four men in dark-coloured clothes shoved him into a large four-wheel-drive vehicle and sped away,” said his wife Zainab. She added that three other vehicles were also part of the group.

Zainab recounted that her husband had warned her about potential threats to his life due to his political commentary and reporting on issues in Pakistan-administered Kashmir. “He told me his instincts suggested his life might be at risk because of his commentary on events in his hometown. But he was adamant that the establishment had been targeting him for a long time,” she said.

Two days after the alleged abduction, Zainab received a message from Farhad via WhatsApp, urging her to withdraw her court petition in exchange for his return. “I could tell he was being coerced into sending the message. He asked me to withdraw my petition, saying he would come home and that he was away on private business, but it was clearly a forced statement,” she said.

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), the country’s prominent human rights body, has condemned Farhad’s disappearance and demanded his immediate release.

Poet Ahmed Farhad must 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.

— Human Rights Commission of Pakistan