Islamabad, Pakistan Human rights groups asked for information on where an important Pakistani journalist, known for his criticism of the country’s powerful military, was after his disappearance on Tuesday.

Police reported that Matiullah Jan was seen outside a government school in the Pakistani capital of Islamabad on Tuesday morning.

“He came here to the government girls’ school in G-6 [neighbourhood], where his wife is a teacher, to leave her, “said Nasrullah, an officer who is investigating the case.” His car is still standing here. “

“We are currently investigating the case and no formal allegations have yet been filed.”

Jan Kaneez Sughra’s 42-year-old wife told Al Jazeera that she heard the sounds of a fight outside of school, but hadn’t thought seriously about it at the time.

“The school is closed and there are no children here, but we have some work there to write letters or other administrative jobs, so I was there.”

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Sughra said Jan left her at school at 10 am local time (05:00 GMT) and asked to be picked up three hours later. About an hour later, he heard the fight outside the gate.

“I could hear that something was going on outside, but I couldn’t hear my husband’s voice. What I heard was for four or five seconds. Then at 1.15pm (8.15am GMT) when I called him, he was not answering” .

Sughra said she went out of school and saw that their car was still stopped where Jan had left it. “The car was unlocked and the keys were inside. You could see from the state of the car that it was forcibly removed.”

Pakistani information minister Shibli Faraz acknowledged the kidnapping at a press conference in Islamabad. Faraz was speaking after a weekly cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Imran Khan.

“I assure you that even though I don’t have all the details, it is clear that he was kidnapped,” said Faraz. “We will do our best to find out today where it is and what steps to take to recover it. It is obvious that this is the duty of the government and the government will fulfill its duties.”

Threats from many actors

Journalists in Pakistan are under threat from a variety of actors, with rights groups denouncing growing government and military censorship, intimidation and harassment of journalists in recent years.

The Reporters Without Borders Rights Group (RSF) ranked Pakistan 145th out of 180 countries in its World Press Freedom Index 2020.

Since 1992, at least 61 Pakistani journalists have been killed in connection with their work, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).

“We are extremely concerned about Matiullah Jan’s fate and well-being,” said Amnesty International shortly after her disappearance.

“He has been subjected to physical attacks and harassment for his journalism. The authorities must immediately determine where he is.”

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The Pakistan Human Rights Commission (HRCP) has asked the government “to immediately ensure the safe recovery of the journalist Matiullah Jan”.

“We are deeply concerned about the growing attempts to control the media, suppress independent voices and curb political dissent, thus creating an environment of constant fear,” said Mehdi Hasan, president of HRCP.

“Matiullah Jan courageously supported the Pakistani people, striving to achieve their constitutional and fundamental rights … Jan Jan’s abduction is an act of cowardice and guarantees immediate compensation.”

Last year, an investigation by Al Jazeera discovered a sustained censorship campaign through widespread disruptions of distribution and intimidation in Pakistan, allegedly committed by Pakistani military and civilian governments.

Jan, known for his explicit political comment, had become increasingly critical of Prime Minister Imran Khan’s government since 2018, when he had resigned from hosting a TV talk show on Waqt News.

He also singled out the country’s armed forces, which ruled the country directly for about half of its 73-year history since independence, for particular criticism, often using ironic YouTube videos to make fun of senior military and civilian officials.

Last week, the country’s Supreme Court spread contempt for the court’s notice to Jan for a tweet criticizing the judiciary.

Asad Hashim is the digital correspondent for Al Jazeera in Pakistan. Tweets @AsadHashim

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