May 10th, 2021 

By Ahmed Saeed 


LAHORE

Three year old Sachal is busy playing with his blocks and seems oblivious of the heart broken sobbing of his grandmothers who sit on either side of him on a sofa.
.
His innocence shields him from the tragedy that has struck his life, snatching from him the only shelter that he had. On May 8, Sachal’s mother, Sadaf Chughtai, and the wife of missing person Mudassir Naaru, unexpectedly passed away during her sleep. Since the mysterious disappearance of his father two-and-a-half years back, Sadaf had been raising Sachal as a single mother.
.
The pain of her passing has shocked all who knew her. The death was unexpected, and sudden and a doctor at Lahore’s Jinnah Hospital says the 41 year old died of a cardiac arrest. As Sadaf had died before reaching the hospital, though, the column describing her cause of death on her death certificate remains empty.
.
Sadaf was a graduate of the National College of Arts (NCA) and used to work with different national and international organisations on a freelance basis. Her work kept her awake late at nights as she began working after hours.
On the fateful day of May 8, her father checked on her at 2:30 in the afternoon but she did not respond to his calls. Two hours later, her stepbrother found that she had died.
.
“We immediately took her to the hospital,” recalled Sadaf’s stepbrother, “where the doctors pronounced her dead. The duty doctor told us that Sadaf had breathed her last, almost seven to eight hours ago. This means she must have passed away at around eight in the morning during her sleep,” he says.
.
Though too young to die like this, Sadaf’s family says she had been severely depressed because of her husband’s disappearance, and other reports that claimed that he had died drowning in a river had only exacerbated her grief.
.
She had also started taking antidepressants lately, but she never had any heart issues, says the family. Perhaps then it must have been a broken heart that led to her untimely exit, say friends.
.
Sadaf’s struggle after Naaru’s disappearance
.
Sadaf’s husband, Muddasir Naaru, a journalist and a poet, whose couplets and other works critiqued the role of country’s powerful military in politics, disappeared suddenly in August 2018 leaving behind a gaping chasm in his wife and son’s lives.
.
Her family and friends vouch that before the incident Sadaf was always full of life but for the last two and a half years, her life had been revolving around only two things – her son Sachal and the quest for her missing husband.
.
Naaru went missing from Kaghan Valley on August 20, 2018. In a file interview with Voicepk.net, Sadaf narrates the events before Naaru’s mysterious disappearance.
.
“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-month-old child. He told me he’d return quickly, but he never did,” Sadaf had said.
.
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, they decided to contact a local police station. The police refused to cooperate with her because of the nature of the case.
.
In a country with a history of oppression and clampdown on free speech by the security forces, it is suggested that the country’s military may be behind Naaru’s disappearance.
.
Sadaf ran from pillar to post to find out anything concerning her husband’s whereabouts. She also filed a complaint in the government run commission for enforced disappearances (COIED) The family had been attending commission’s hearings for two years, but there was still no clue about his whereabouts. The commission had lodged an FIR under Section 365 of the Pakistan Penal Code and formed a Joint Investigation Team (JIT) to probe the matter.
.
Sadaf also brought this matter to the notice of international rights organisations and had urged them to play their role in finding her husband.
.
Ironically Sadaf was also due to appear before a meeting of the United Nations Commission on Enforced Disappearances on May 20.
.
Naaru’s mother awaits her son
.
Sadaf along with her mother-in-law and the families of 12 other missing persons had recently staged a sit-in at Islamabad’s D-Chowk in February 2021. Prime Minister Imran Khan, in April, had assured them of his efforts to recover those who were missing.
.
As a part of the Prime Minister’s promise, a few of those who had been detained had returned from oblivion since last week giving other families a little hope.
.
So even as their home is overcast with grief with Sadaf’s unexpected death, another mother is trying to raise her hopes a little. Naaru’s mother is trying to be optimistic about her son’s return.
.
“I was assured my son will be returned to us before Eid-ul-Fitr,” she says. “I had started having my house whitewashed, and was setting up Muddasir’s room so that he could start a new life,” she says. “But now we have been hit hard by this tragedy.”
.
Sachal spent his infancy without his father. Today he has lost his mother too. His grandmother tears up when she speaks about his future and makes a plea.
.
“I plead with the authorities to please send Muddasir home at the earliest, because his son needs him. Only he can take care of his son. Otherwise, Sachal’s entire life will be ruined.”
.
Nearby, a parentless Sachal continues playing with his toys, not knowing what the future has in store for him.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here