LAHORE: The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) held a protest in front of the Lahore Press Club on Friday against the enforced disappearance of Idris Khattak.
Khattak, a human rights activist, and an affiliate of Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, was picked up by 4 unknown plainclothes men on Nov 13th 2019 at the Swabi interchange in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa along with his driver. While his driver was released a few days later, Khattak’s whereabouts, even after the passage of 4 months, remain unknown. Ironically Khattak had been campaigning against enforced disappearances before he went missing and had received threats to stop his activism.
HRCP expressed concerns over the health of 56 year old Khattak who is diabetic and demanded his immediate release. Awami Workers Party’s Shazia Khan pointed out that Khattak’s disappearance is especially suspicious as he was a very prominent activist for the rights and retrieval of missing persons.
Social worker Amjad Saleem said that rather than the persons or institutions that kidnapped Khattak are the true criminals and not those who campaign against enforced disappearances.
Idris Khattak is one among 2,178 unresolved cases of enforced disappearances still pending against the State. Following his abduction, Advocate Shafiq Ahmed was picked up outside his home on Dec 12th 2019 by a dozen or so unidentified plainclothes men. And then, on the December 16th 2019, Col (R) Advocate Inam-ur-Rahim was abducted from his home in Rawalpindi by approximately 10 unknown men. Later the Defense ministry admitted in court when summoned that they had held Col Inam on treason charges.
Both lawyers were rights defenders and were especially vocal about enforced disappearances. In the cases of advocates Shafiq Ahmed and Col Inam, the State claimed responsibility in abducting and holding the two in State custody. Both lawyers were eventually released. However, no information regarding Idris Khattak’s whereabouts or the state of his mental and physical well-being has surfaced since his disappearance.
The International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) states that enforced disappearances in Pakistan are no longer restricted to conflict zones alone, but it is “a tactic for suppressing dissenting voices wherever they are present”, and Idris Khattak was one such voice.
The forced disappearances of missing persons activists is a deeply concerning matter, and repugnant to the UN’s resolutions on forced disappearances, to which Pakistan is a signatory, which terms it as a “crime against humanity”.
Report by Staff reporter