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21 Oct 2017

Zeenat Shahzadi, missing Pak journalist linked to Indian 'spy', found

Pakistan's first 'disappeared' female journalist

A Pakistani journalist missing since two years has been safely recovered, officials confirmed yesterday.

At the time of her disappearance, 25-year-old Zeenat Shahzadi was working on the case of a missing Indian citizen, Hamid Ansari. It ultimately led to security agencies admitting that Ansari was in their custody.

According to the missing persons commission, Shahzadi was kidnapped by "non-state actors and enemy agencies".

In context

Pakistan's first 'disappeared' female journalist


Zeenat Shahzadi's India link

Shahzadi, reporter and activist, often worked for missing persons. Her last case was of Hamid Ansari, who some believed had reached Pakistan while pursuing a woman he met online.

He went missing in November'12. Shahzadi traced his mother and filed a petition on her behalf.

The missing persons commission was eventually forced to probe the case. Security agencies admitted Ansari was in their custody.

Pakistan's first known 'forced disappearance' of a female journalist

On August 19, 2015, Shahzadi was on her way to work on a rickshaw when armed men intercepted her and took her away, days before she was to give testimony in the Ansari case. In February'16, he was sentenced to three years' imprisonment for espionage.

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The role of Pakistan's intel agency

Though the commission has blamed "non-state actors", Pakistan's ISI is notorious for targeting journalist and activists.

Thirty-four journalists had been killed for their work during 2008-2014, Amnesty noted.

The Human Rights Index recovered 4,557 bodies of suspected victims of enforced disappearances during 2009-2015.

Laws like the Pakistan Protection Act, 2014 and the Pakistan Protection Ordinance extend unobstructed powers to law enforcement agencies.

Shahzadi's family has been waiting for her since two years


Shahzadi's family has been waiting for her since two years

The families of the disappeared often pay a high price: Shahzadi's mother had to spend two years not even knowing whether her daughter's dead or alive.

In March'16, Shahzadi's 17-year-old brother killed himself, not being able to bear the pain.

Her kin has consistently claimed she was kidnapped by state agencies.

Shahzadi's return might just re-unite an almost broken family.

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