Pakistani poet was abducted because of human rights activism, says wife

<span>Zainab said Farhad had posted on X about receiving threats from the Inter-Services Intelligence agency.</span><span>Photograph: Supplied</span>
Zainab said Farhad had posted on X about receiving threats from the Inter-Services Intelligence agency.Photograph: Supplied

The wife of a Kashmiri poet and journalist who was abducted from outside his house last week has accused the country’s spy agency of responsibility, saying it acted because of his activism.

Ahmad Farhad was pushed into a vehicle in Islamabad after returning from a dinner in the early hours of Wednesday 15 May and driven away.

His wife, Syeda Urooj Zainab, said that hours before his abduction Farhad had posted on X about receiving threats from the Inter-Services Intelligence agency, using the euphemism “the company” to describe it.

“My husband has been abducted for writing and raising his voice against human rights violations across the country,” Zainab said. “He actively reported on the recent protests in his hometown in Pakistan-administered Kashmir. Farhad has been receiving threats from the company for a long time, he was asked to keep silent which he refused.”

Hours after his disappearance, Farhad’s family petitioned the Islamabad high court to investigate what had happened. On Monday a defence ministry official told the court that Farhad was not in the custody of the ISI. The court was unconvinced, however, and on Tuesday it ordered security forces to produce Farhad within four days and threatened to summon the prime minister in the event he was not released.

The powerful ISI has long been accused of enforced disappearances of activists, political workers and students.

Zainab said that two days after the alleged abduction, Farhad contacted her through WhatsApp and asked her to withdraw her petition in the court in return for his recovery. She said the duration of each call was not more than 30 seconds.

“I could hear that he was forced to talk and send messages. He asked me to withdraw my petition and he would return home on Saturday as he was away for some private business,” she said. Zainab submitted an application to withdraw the petition but Farhad did not return on Saturday.

Mohsin Akhtar Kayani, the judge hearing the case, said the government needed to change people’s perception of state institutions that are accused of abducting people.

Zainab said she hoped that Farhad would be reunited with his family on Friday after the court interfered.

Harris Khalique, another poet and civil society activist, said: “Abducting artists or poets is not just a disappointing act on part of the state, it is a sign of intellectual decline in society at large.”