Dr Riaz Ahmed, a human rights defender and renowned Marxist intellectual in Pakistan, has won bail following a court case today, Thursday. This is a major success, but the battle for justice continues.
Riaz had been picked up by security forces last Saturday.
He was about to address a press conference calling for the release from prison of a former colleague, who has been detained since October 2016.
Media reports reveal that he was arrested by the paramilitary Sindh Rangers.
Protests undoubtedly had an effect on the authorities’ decision to grant bail so speedily.
Demonstrations calling for Riaz’s release took place in at least four major cities.
The executive of the Teachers Society at Karachi University, where Riaz is an assistant professor, haddecided to call a “Black Day” boycott of classes today to “protest against the arrest and the false case against DrRiaz Ahmed”.
And international backing for Riaz was also important.
Riaz is still charged with having a weapon without a licence, and other charges are also reportedly under consideration.
Pakistan’s Dawn newspaper (which is similar to the Guardian) wrote this week, “A Rangers’ official has said he ‘personally knew Dr Ahmed for his efforts in creating momentum for the release of bloggers accused of committing blasphemy’.
“These are very dangerous, and troubling, charges. Those who know Dr Ahmed can testify that he has always advocated peaceful resistance to oppression, so the charge that he was found in possession of a firearm is highly implausible, and all the more disturbing for that.
“The government must stop persecuting activists on flimsy grounds, or else Pakistan will earn the unenviable reputation of being a police state that crushes all peaceful dissent.”
In previous cases similar to this the state either moves to harsh punishment or strings out proceedings leaving those targeted insecure and intimidated.
All charges must be dropped now, and the unaccountable state’s harassment cease.