A prominent Pakistani journalist known for his criticism of the country's powerful military has been kidnapped, raising concerns his life may be in danger.
Matiullah Jan, one of the country's leading journalists, was abducted on July 21 in the capital, Islamabad, by several men after they intercepted his car, his colleague Asad Toor said.
Footage from surveillance cameras showed men dragging a driver out of his vehicle and pushing him into another car before driving away. Jan's wife said the first car in the video belonged to her husband.
Information Minister Shibli Faraz would only confirm that Jan had been kidnapped.
Leading politicians, activists, and journalists took to Twitter to call for the journalist's release, with the hashtag #BringBackMatiullah trending in the country, while the Austrian-based International Press Institute (IPI) demanded that Jan be freed.
“We fear that Matiullah Jan’s life is in danger, and immediate steps must be taken to locate him and ensure his release from his apparent kidnappers,” IPP Deputy Director Scott Griffen said in a statement. “Given the history of violence against journalists in Pakistan, the authorities cannot delay in seeking to protect Jan’s safety.”
Jan, who has worked as a print and broadcast journalist for the past three decades, has previously been intimidated, harassed, and attacked, his friend Azaz Syed said.
After being fired by Pakistan's Waqt TV station, allegedly under pressure from the military -- a frequent target of his criticism -- he continued to maintain a voice via social media, including on YouTube and Twitter, even receiving a contempt of court notice earlier this month for a tweet.
Criticism of the army has long been seen as a red line for the media, with journalists and bloggers inside Pakistan complaining of intimidation tactics including kidnappings, beatings, and even killings if they cross that line.
The military has an oversized role in the domestic and foreign affairs of the South Asian country of around 220 million.
A spokesperson for the military declined to comment on Jan’s case.
Several Pakistani journalists were briefly detained in recent months, allegedly by the military's spy agency, in what is thought to be an attempt to silence criticism of the powerful military.
The military has denied the accusations.