November 14th, 2020 

By Hamid Riaz 


A year has passed and Idrees Khattak, a researcher who had been extensively working on human rights violations perpetrated by the state of Pakistan especially in the aftermath of the war on terror, remains missing. Khattak has not been seen since his ‘abduction’ on the 13th of November 2019.

Idrees Khattak was focused on recording and documenting incidents of enforced disappearances in several regions of Balochistan and former FATA.

According to a witness who was present at the scene on November 13, 2019, Khattak’s car was intercepted near the Sawabi interchange and a black cloth bag was thrown over his face. That was the last anyone ever saw of him.

Several months after his abduction, on the 16th of June 2020, a video posted on Twitter by his youngest daughter Talia Khattak helped raise awareness about his plight. In a rare admission, the Pakistani authorities declared that Idrees was in fact in their custody and was being tried under the colonial-era Official Secrets Act. Legal experts believe that the charges were hastily framed and that Idrees, a civilian, cannot be tried under a law explicitly designed to persecute government officials specifically members of the armed forces themselves. To this day his family remains in the dark about the circumstances of his arrest and the conditions of his detention.

To mark a year of his abduction spoke to his daughter Talia Khattak about her experience. Talia describes his father as a selfless, loving, and generous person. According to his daughter, Khattak not only fought against notable human rights violations but also practiced his philosophy in day to day issues others might consider insignificant. He opened his doors to orphaned children of his area, paid for their education, and actively tried to improve their standard of living. He was an avid lover of animals and a passionate supporter of women’s rights something which is evident from the way he has raised his daughters.

Months after his abduction on the 7th of October Talia was allowed a rare glimpse of her father. “I received a call from an unknown number informing me that a meeting with your father has been allowed,” explains Talia. She was overtaken by both fear and excitement at the same time.

“Strict rules were set up. We were not allowed to speak Pashtu and the meeting time was limited to a mere 20 minutes. I could see that he had grown older, his hair was white and there were dark circles under his eyes. But all in all, he remained firm in front of me. Maybe he was trying to hide his pain from me so that I do not lose my own resolve,” elaborates an emotional Talia. “When the meeting was about to end they announced that I had only 3 minutes left with him. The announcement felt like I was going to lose my father again,”

Talking about the court case Talia explains that there were several postponements in the proceedings. And the delay raises questions on the legitimacy of the legal process. “During the last hearing in October Justice Waqar Seth finally ordered the military court its proceedings and ordered that the case be shifted to the Peshawar High Court (PHC),” Following this monumental decision the case was again postponed several times.

But despite all the hardships she and his family face Talia remains optimistic. Because that is the attitude her father has raised her with.