ISLAMABAD: Federal Information Minister Shibli Faraz said Tuesday the government was trying hard to recover senior journalist Matiullah Jan, who was kidnapped in broad daylight here from the federal capital earlier today.
Speaking at a press conference after the Cabinet meeting, Faraz said he was aware of the incident and had already talked to Interior Minister Brig Ijaz Shah about the matter.
"Yes, he has been kidnapped from Islamabad," he confirmed. "This is the government's responsibility to ensure his safe recovery.
"We are trying hard to recover him as soon as possible," the minister added.
Taking notice of the journalist's kidnapping, Human Rights Minister Shireen Mazari said Tuesday evening she had reached out to the authorities, with the inspector-general for Islamabad informing her that "they are looking into it".
The minister termed the incident "very disturbing" in a post on her Twitter account.
Meanwhile, the Islamabad High Court (IHC) ordered the immediate release of the abducted journalist.
IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah issued the orders after Jan's brother filed a complaint. Notices have been issued to the interior secretary, and Islamabad's chief commissioner and inspector general of police (IGP) to respond in the matter.
"If he is not recovered by tomorrow, the respondents must appear in person before the court," said the order.
The journalist was supposed to appear before the Supreme Court this week in relation to a contempt case based on an allegedly contemptuous tweet by him.
'Attack on media'
Taking to Twitter, PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto expressed concern on Jan’s abduction and said: "This is not only an attack on media freedoms & democracy but on all of us. Today it is Matiuallah, tomorrow it could be you or I."
In a statement, PML-N stalwart Khawaja Asif said: "Matiullah Jan was constantly making efforts for the freedom of the press and his hearing with the Supreme Court, regarding alleged contempt of court, was also due for tomorrow.
"Taking him into custody at this time is an attempt to silence the voice of the media," Asif said, adding that PML-N had always and would continue to support freedom of speech in Pakistan.
PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif termed the disappearance as "highly condemnable & matter of deep concern".
"The government's campaign to muzzle the media & critical voices is simply shameful. If something happens to Matiullah, PM will be held responsible," Sharif said on Twitter.
Earlier in the day, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) had said Jan went missing from Islamabad’s Sector G-6 where he had gone to pick his wife from school.
The HRCP demanded the government ensure the "safe recovery" of the journalist after reports emerged that he had gone missing in the federal capital.
Jan's "family confirms that he has gone missing", the organisation added in a statement posted on Twitter.
In an interview with Independent Urdu, the journalist's wife said his car was found outside her school in Islamabad's G-6 area, with the keys still inside. "I have been told some people forcibly took away my husband," she said.
Police said they had started an investigation regarding the matter.
The CCTV footage of the incident, shared on social media, showed multiple unidentified individuals forcibly taking Matiullah Jan away.
Senior broadcast journalist Hamid Mir tweeted that Jan threw his phone inside the school building but was seized by the people involved in the abduction.
Rights organisations express concern
Amnesty International South Asia tweeted that it was concerned about Jan's "fate and wellbeing".
"He has been the subject of physical attacks and harassment for his journalism. The authorities must establish his whereabouts immediately," the human rights organisation tweeted.
Furthermore, the International Press Institute (IPI) issued a statement expressing outrage at the incident.
"We fear that Mutiullah Jan’s life is in danger, and immediate steps must be taken to locate him and ensure his release from his apparent kidnappers," IPI Deputy Director Scott Griffen said.
"Given the history of violence against journalists in Pakistan, the authorities cannot delay in seeking to protect Jan’s safety."
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