Fears for Pakistani journalist missing in Sweden

A Pakistani journalist who fled the country to escape death threats has gone missing in Sweden where he was granted political asylum.

Sajid Hussain was last seen boarding a train in Stockholm on his way to Uppsala on 2 March, according to the group Reporters Without Borders (RSF).

The group said it was possible he had been abducted “at the behest of a Pakistani intelligence agency”.

Hussain, 39, fled to Sweden in 2012 after writing about crime.

He had reported on forced disappearances and organised crime in Pakistan, relatives said.

Why might he have been a target?

Online newspaper the Balochistan Times, for which Hussain was chief editor, said it had reported his disappearance to Swedish police on 3 March.

“As of today [28 March], there is no clue about his whereabouts and wellbeing,” it said in an editorial. “The police have not shared any progress in the investigations with his family and friends.”

Relatives told the Pakistani newspaper Dawn they had waited two weeks before expressing their fears in case he had gone into isolation because of the coronavirus outbreak.

Hussain’s wife, Shehnaz, told Dawn that before going into self-imposed exile, her husband had sensed he was being followed. As well as writing about forced disappearances he had exposed a drug kingpin in Pakistan.

“Then some people broke into his house in Quetta when he was out investigating a story,” she said. “They took away his laptop and other papers too. After that he left Pakistan in Septem­ber 2012 and never came back.”

Balochistan, in the west of Pakistan, has been the scene of a long-running nationalist insurgency. The Pakistani military has been accused of torturing and “disappearing” dissidents. Insurgent groups have also killed members of non-Baloch ethnic groups.

RSF, which campaigns for press freedom, said Hussain had vanished after boarding a train in Stockholm at around 11:30 on 2 March to go to Uppsala where he was to collect the keys to a new flat. He did not alight in Uppsala, RSF said, quoting police.

“Everything indicates that this is an enforced disappearance,” said the head of RSF’s Asia-Pacific desk, Daniel Bastard.

“If you ask yourself who would have an interest in silencing a dissident journalist, the first response would have to be the Pakistani intelligence services.”

Pakistan is considered one of the most dangerous countries in the world to be a journalist .It ranked 142nd out of 180 countries in the 2019 RSF Press Freedom Index.

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