August 21, 2020
By Haider Kaleem
Protest held for the release of missing journalist
Citizens, human rights activists, and political workers organized a protest outside the press club in Lahore, calling for the release of Mudassir Naru. Naru, a poet, and a working journalist. He was vacationing in the Kaghan valley with his family when he “disappeared” on the 20th of August 2018.
“We were sitting on the bank of river Kunhar; we had just finished drinking tea when he suddenly stood up and said I am going for a trek. I told him to hurry back because I was there alone with our six-year-old child. He told me he’d return quickly, but he never did”, says Mudassir Naru’s wife.
When Mudassir did not return his wife panicked, she signaled to a friend nearby, and together they set off looking for him. When they could not find him there, they decided to contact the local police station. The police refused to cooperate with her because of the nature of the case.
Mudassir’s family has filed a complaint in the commission for enforced disappearances. The family has been attending commission hearings for two years now, but there is still no clue about Mudassir’s whereabouts. The commission has lodged an FIR under article 365 of the penal code and formed a joint investigation team (JIT) to probe the matter. But progress has been snail-paced.
SLOW INVESTIGATION & THREATS
According to Mudassir’s father, the commission has been very non-serious about their son’s case, members of the commission do not even show up for the hearings sometimes. And when they do, they try their best to delay the matter further.
“Mudassir was a staunch democrat. He criticized the establishment’s involvement in politics and called the current prime minister Imran Khan selected. He even put up a Facebook status saying that he has been getting threatening phone calls, but he refused to back down. They abducted him because of his political views”, says Rana Mahmood Akram, Mudassir’s father.
Asad Jamal, a prominent human rights lawyer, who was present at the protest called for much-needed legislation to deal with the growing crisis of unlawful detentions or “enforced disappearances.”
“Some people have tried spreading rumors that Mudassir drowned in the river or tried committing suicide, but as a human rights lawyer, I can see what happened. He was a dissenter, and dissenters tend to disappear in this country. Parliament needs to legislate on this issue”, says Asad while speaking to VoicePk.net.
Mudassir Naru’s mother, Rahat Bibi, told voicePk.net that she could not care less about politics. She, much like any mother, needs her son back. With tears flowing down her eyes, she begged the citizens of Pakistan to support her in the fight to recover her son.
“He was a journalist who had worked for the Dunya group, Express TV and Geo TV. But more than that, he was my child. I am a simple villager from Faisalabad, and I don’t know much about politics. All I know is that I could not even go a few minutes without hearing my son’s voice,” she laments.
President of the Progressive Youth organization Punjab (PYO-P), Zohaib Butt, claims that the Pakistan People’s Party has taken notice of Mudassir Naru’s disappearance and has invited his parents to the next meeting of the Senate Committee on Human Rights to be held on the 28th of August.
“We understand that Mudassir was a supporter of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), and now the leadership has taken notice of his disappearance. We will take all necessary steps to ensure his release,” says Zohaib.
Rights activists say that this protest is not the end of their agitation; instead, it is the initiation of a long struggle against the draconian practice of enforced disappearances prevalent countrywide. According to a report published by the commission on enforced disappearances, the total number of missing person cases filed at the commission reached 6729 by the end of July.