ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — In the space of a few days last month, five Pakistani bloggers — all known as left-leaning social-media activists — were abducted by unknown hands. After a domestic and international outcry, the missing men reappeared unharmed — but as mysteriously as they had vanished.
In some ways, they are still missing.
None of them have spoken about their capture or treatment, widely attributed to Pakistani security agents; one, now in the Netherlands, said last week that he had been “afraid I would never come back,” although he did not identify his abductors. None appear to have posted anything online.
While public furor has died down with the return of the men, the case raises disturbing questions about the unchallenged role of state security agencies — which operate in the shadows, free of civilian oversight — in tracking and quashing new forms of dissent in the Internet era. Rights groups say a total of 11 bloggers have gone missing in recent weeks, but only five cases have been publicly reported.
Pakistan’s intelligence agencies have long been accused of using “enforced disappearances” as a tool for warning or punishing dissidents. Just since 2011, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan reports, more than 3,500 such disappearances have occurred.
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