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ISLAMABAD: A Pakistani blogger abducted earlier this year and released several weeks later has claimed he was tortured and interrogated by his abductors about having links with India’s Research and Analysis Wing, the BBC reported on Wednesday.
Asim Saeed, one among a group of five liberal social media activists who were abducted in January this year, has applied for asylum in Britain fearing that his life is in danger in Pakistan. Saeed had been involved in running a Facebook page called Mochi that was critical of Pakistan’s military “because since the inception of Pakistan they’ve always been ruling us directly or indirectly”.
According to him, a number of men in plain clothes had ordered him into a car when he had come to Pakistan from Singapore to attend his brother’s wedding. “Do you know why you’ve been picked up?” one of the persons asked him. “I have no idea,” he had answered. “Then he started to slap me. They said, ‘Let’s talk about Mochi’,'” he said.
Saeed told the BBC that he had been ordered to hand over the passwords to his email accounts and mobile phone before being taken to a secret detention facility where he was held alongside men he believed to be “religious terrorists”.
According to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, 728 people had been forcibly disappeared in 2016 and, in most of these cases, Pakistan’s intelligence agencies were blamed for the disappearance of social and ethnic nationalist activists, besides those accused of links to militant groups. When released, very few people shared what actually happened to them in detention.
Saeed, however, alleged he was beaten with a leather strap. “I don’t remember what happened, I fell down and someone was holding my neck in [between] his feet, and the other guy kept beating and beating and beating,” Saeed said.
He described his arms and back being left “shades of purple, blue and black”.
At another detention facility, Saeed said, he was made to undergo polygraph tests whilst being repeatedly questioned about links to the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW). “Have you ever been associated with RAW? Who is your handler? Have you ever received money from RAW?” Saeed said he was asked.
He said he denied any links to any foreign intelligence service and added that his interrogators had also analysed his Facebook posts and questioned him about why he was “critical of the army”.
Saeed said he believed he would be killed because, normally, “missing persons don’t go home”.
While the disappearances of activists had triggered protests nationwide and on social media, a counter-campaign was launched by right-wing religious clerics and TV anchors accusing them of blasphemy. Being accused of blasphemy is an extremely dangerous trend in Pakistan and lynch mobs have murdered a number of people accused of it.
Saeed said when he returned home after detention, he learnt he had been accused of blasphemy. He denied the charge.
Shortly after his release, he returned to Singapore and went to the UK in September. He told the BBC he had then decided to apply for asylum as the terms of his employment visa in Singapore meant he would not be allowed to stay there if he ever lost his job, and his life would be in danger if he returned to Pakistan. But he did not regret his activism. “People have to stand up,” Saeed said.