Pakistan: Little headway in recovery of missing activist

The police are yet to make headway in the recovery of peace and civil society activist Raza Khan who has gone missing in Lahore on Saturday.

The victim, identified as Raza Mehmood, worked for social organisations Aghaz-e-Dosti and Low Key Lokai.

On 4 December, the activist’s brother Hamid Nasir Mehmood filed an FIR in Lahore’s Naseerabad Police Station, asking the law enforcers to take notice of Raza’s disappearance. He said his brother lived in Model Town and his cell phone had not been responding since Saturday. The brother lived in Kasur and came to Raza’s residence when he was not able to get in touch. However, there was no trace of the latter’s whereabouts.

He feared that the missing person might have been kidnapped and he requested the police to take action for the recovery of his brother.

Investigation Officer Sub Inspector Muhammad Saleem, when contacted, refused to comment about the progress of the investigation as he was busy in a meeting.

A social activist on social media said hospital emergency wards, morgues and Rescue 1122 had been checked, but there was no news of Raza.

This is not the first time a social activist has gone missing under suspicious circumstances. Last year, four bloggers went missing for a month. Some months ago, a woman journalist, who had taken up the case of enforced disappearances, returned home after going missing for over a year.

According to the Commission of Inquiry on Enforced Disappearances, there were 1,498 cases of missing persons pending with it.

There are 273 cases of missing persons from Punjab, 126 cases each from Sindh and Balochistan, 63 cases from the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) and 52 from Islamabad. The report said that over 3,000 cases were disposed of up till November 30, 2017, while 2,257 people had been traced since 2011.

The missing of Raza has again sparked criticism over security and the vulnerability of activists.

Raheemul Haque, a social activist, said that “Raza is truly a special person and the Pakistan convener of Aghaz-e-Dosti, a Pakistan-India citizen peace initiative which brings children together through letter exchange and peace art. He is at the forefront of Low Key Lokai, an initiative to create progressive space.”

The activist went on to say that Rescue 1122, hospitals and his home have been checked. “His brother filed an application with the police; we hope and pray that he is safe and whoever has abducted him understands that he represents love, peace and justice. Is that too much to ask?”

An online petition called Find Raza Khan: A Social Activist Gone Missing from Lahore has also been initiated.

Buildozer, a social media page commented, “Peace activist Raza Khan, convener of Aghaz-s-Dosti, missing from his home since Saturday evening; appears to be yet another attempt to silence the voice of reason and dissent”.

A women’s activist Nida Kirmani-Raza noted “a dedicated, peace-loving member of Lahore’s activist community has been missing since Saturday. We demand his safe and speedy return.”

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