In Pakistan’s capital city Islamabad, hundreds of students, lawyers, activists and members of human rights groups gathered today to protest enforced disappearances. The disappearance of activist Raza Khan last month prompted today’s protest.
Raza Khan was a member of youth group Low-key Lokai, and convener of Aghaz-e-Dosti, an organization working for India-Pakistan friendship. He went missing on 2nd December after leaving his office. Raza’s brother said that before his disappearance, Raza had attended a discussion on religious extremism.
The gathering was addressed by Amina Masood Janjua, chairperson of the group Defence Of Human Rights Pakistan. She has been working on cases of enforced disappearances since 2005 when her husband went missing. She said that around 2,500 cases of enforced disappearances have come to her over the years, and because of people’s struggles, 900 of those cases have been solved. She expressed hope that continued movement by citizens and activists will result in Raza’s safe return as well.
Taha Siddiqui, prominent Pakistani journalist, also spoke to the protestors. He talked about his escape from an abduction attempt made on him on Wednesday. He said he was glad that he is a part of the protest today. He had faced threats earlier as well for his open criticism of the military on social media. Siddiqui said he had been working on a story on Raza and other enforced disappearances, and that could be the why reason he was attacked. His laptop and hard drives were taken by the kidnappers.
Several other activists spoke of the need to continue the struggle for freedom of expression, a right guaranteed by the constitution of Pakistan. They also demanded to know what the achievements of the State Commission of Inquiry on Enforced Disappearances have been.
Prior to this, a seminar was organised last week by Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) and Institute of Peace and Secular Studies (IPSS) in Lahore. Discussions on ‘Human Rights in the Era of Enforced Disappearances’ were held.