December 7th, 2021
By Ahmed Saeed
Rahat Mahmood, mother of missing journalist Mudassir Naaru campaigning for her son’s safe return, is counting the days to her meeting with Prime Minister Imran Khan. “I will look into his eyes and speak my heart out,” she says. “I will ask him to use all his powers to find my son.”
The Prime Minister is due to meet Naaru’s mother on the orders of the Islamabad High Court (IHC) before the next day of the hearing, December 13th.
“I would ask him that you had always talked about the missing persons before coming to power, but now you are the prime minister so you should ask the agencies to produce the missing persons. What’s the purpose of becoming a prime minister when you are helpless in front of institutions,” Mahmood says.
Naaru, a journalist and a poet, whose couplets and other works critiqued the country’s powerful, disappeared while on a holiday in August 2018 leaving behind a gaping chasm in his wife and son’s lives.
His wife, Sadaf Chughtai passed away on May 8, 2021. After her passing, Naaru’s four-year-old son Sachal is living with his grandmother, Ms. Mahmood, who has visibly been emotionally drained and physically weakened by her ongoing quest to locate her son.
The Islamabad High Court (IHC) had directed Federal Minister for Human Rights Dr. Shireen Mazari to arrange a meeting of Naaru’s parents and child with the Prime Minister. The court had also directed to place the matter before the federal cabinet. “The latter [Federal Cabinet] shall direct all the agencies under its control to produce the missing person before this court of trace his whereabouts,” the court order said.
It added that in case the missing person was not produced before this court nor his whereabouts were traced, the federal cabinet shall ascertain the agencies and public functionaries responsible for the failure and inform the court regarding the action taken against them.
The IHC has been hearing these matters for the last several months. It has repeatedly asked the federal government to find the missing journalist or at least trace his whereabouts. In the last hearing on December 1, Federal Minister Dr. Mazari apprised the court about the federal government’s effort to resolve the issue of missing persons. She told the court that the government was bringing a bill to criminalize enforced disappearances and to penalize all those involved in these heinous crimes.
However, Ms. Mahmood is not satisfied with the government’s efforts as she thinks that the authorities are oblivious to the agony she and other relatives of missing persons are going through.
“In February this year, I along with the families of 12 other missing persons had recently staged a sit-in at Islamabad’s D-Chowk. We were then told that the government was contemplating to bring a bill to resolve the issue of missing persons, now, in the court, the government gave us the same assurances”, Ms. Mahmood tells Voicepk in an exclusive interview.
“Why are they taking so much time to legislate on this important issue? When they have to legislate for their own, they pass the bill in no time. I can’t understand why the government is delaying the matter.”
‘Where did they find my son?
Ms. Mahmood also raises questions about the government’s claims that it had tried its best to find Naaru. “Someone should tell me where did they try to find my son? Did they try to find him sitting in their offices?”
“And those who say that my son went of his own will, I will ask them to use their technologies and tell me where he is.”
Naaru’s son, Sachal lost his mother, too, this year. His grandmother tears up when she speaks about the future of the four-year-old.
“He has recently started going to school and that day, which otherwise should have been a day of immense happiness for us,” the grandmother says.” It turned into a day of great grief for all of us. I cried a lot that day because neither of his parents was there to absorb this memorable moment to cherish.”