October 31, 2023
Social activist and podcaster Imran Noshad has reportedly gone missing in Lahore, according to his family. His brother, Adnan, stated that Noshad has been missing since Sunday, October 29, in Lahore. His phone has also been switched off since then.
“I last talked to my brother at 4:30 p.m. on Sunday, and his last WhatsApp activity was at 6:28 p.m. Since then, we have not heard from him, and no one has contacted us regarding him,” Adnan expressed his worries to Voicepk.net over the phone from Buner District, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. He also added that a day after Noshad’s disappearance, police raided their home in Buner in the wee hours of October 30 and arrested their 15-year-old brother, Nauman. The minor was interrogated at the police station for some hours before he was eventually released.
Later that same day, the Buner Police registered a first information report (FIR) against the podcaster on sedition charges under sections 124-A, 120-B, 505 and 506 of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC). The FIR alleges that “Noshad defames the Pakistan Army and other sensitive institutions through his social media accounts and attempts to incite the public against the Army through propaganda and conspiracy-induced interviews.”
The FIR was filed by a police official.
It is worth noting that the sections included in the FIR against Noshad are considered offences against the state. As per Section 196 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC), only federal or provincial governments have the authority to register such FIRs through a designated official.
In a recent judgment, the Supreme Court disapproved of the practice of filing FIRs under sedition charges for exercising the right to free speech. Justice Jamal Khan Mandokhail, who authored the judgement, highlighted the government’s practice of engaging citizens in malicious and frivolous prosecution on weak grounds of harbouring anti-state sentiments. Such misuse of authority has created a sense of fear and insecurity in society, leading to a growing resentment against state institutions.
Noshad, 25, holds a Bachelors in sociology, and hosts a podcast on social, political, and human rights issues, with guests from various walks of society. He had been very vocal about human rights abuses on his social media profiles and criticized the military establishment for their extra-constitutional activities, particularly its interference in civilian and government affairs.
Recently, Noshad released an episode of his podcast with rights activist and lawyer Iman Zainab Mazari-Hazir, where the two discussed forced disappearances at length and criticized the military for its political interference. Some commentators on social media have suggested that the youth’s disappearance may be linked to this podcast episode. However, prior to his disappearance, Noshad had clarified on his social media account on October 28 that the interview was recorded back in April 2023.
Adnan has appealed to the authorities, saying that,
“Noshad has been doing podcasts for a long time, and he has his own beliefs. We are willing to delete everything and will stop him from continuing with this, but we urge the authorities to please return him unharmed.”
Noshad’s close friend and journalist, Abdullah Mohmand, revealed that the podcaster had been facing threats for his work and had shared his concerns with him.
“I last contacted him in the evening on Sunday, and he shared a video with me saying he was in Liberty Market, Lahore, for dinner. When I called him at 8:34 pm, I found that his phone was switched off,” Mohmand said. “He has no family in Lahore and they cannot lodge an FIR of his disappearance. Imran’s family is under stress and they just want his safe return at the earliest.”