LAHORE: The Pakistan Human Rights Defenders Network (PHRDN) has expressed serious concern over the shrinking space for human rights defenders and condemned the forced disappearances of at least five social media activists from different part of the country in the first week of January 2017. The network in a statement on Wednesday demanded that the government should ensure earliest and safe return of missing activists, including Salman Haider, Samar Abbas, Waqas Goraya and Aasim Saeed. “As the government has denied that any of the law enforcing agencies is responsible for these incidents, it is imperative that the government makes every effort for the recovery of the missing activists. In this regard, the families of the missing persons should be taken into confidence and informed about the proceedings,” it said. The group said that in case the missing persons were suspected of any illegal activity, formal cases should be registered against them and the matter be brought before a court of law in a transparent manner. All five bloggers and social media activists are known for their support for democratic values and human rights of the citizens without prejudice to any faith, language, gender or political affiliation. “Such arbitrary actions are in clear violation of the constitution, which guarantees the right to fair trial for all citizens and the freedom from arbitrary detention,” the statement added. PHRDN convenor Tanveer Jahan and steering committee members Peter Jacob, Bushra Khalique, Munazza Hashmi, Ali Palh, Jan Mengal, Qamar Naseem and Zulfiqar Shah said in the statement that the issue of enforced disappearances had already been projecting a bad image of Pakistan abroad. “These latest incidents will further damage the reputation of the country, already facing international isolation,” they claimed. “Those involved in such unlawful actions are damaging the image of the country and should be punished,” they added. “This state of impunity must end forthwith.” For the strengthening of democracy, the rule of law and the fight against terrorism, it was imperative that all organs of the state and society respected human rights, they said, adding that those standing up for the rights of the vulnerable and the marginalised segments of society should be protected.