February 1st, 2022
By Hamid Riaz
Desperate and in search of his brother Naqeeb, Zahir Achakzai has traveled all the way from his home in Quetta, arriving in Lahore on the night of January 31. Naqeeb and his business partner Shafiq were picked up by law enforcement agencies in separate raids on January 26, on suspicion of being involved in the terrorist attack that took place a week before on January 20, in Lahore’s Anarkali bazaar. Both have been missing since then.
Naqeeb’s cousin, Akbar Achakzai, claims that all this while, the local police have refused to register an FIR of the incident despite repeated requests by the family. “The police kept telling us to be patient, advising that we should wait for a couple more days,” says Akbar, who is enrolled as a student of law in a private college in Lahore. “On the morning he was picked up, Shafiq was going to the ‘Shalmi’ Bazaar to supply goods to his vendors when all of a sudden his loader rickshaw was intercepted by a black vehicle,” he says.
“Some law enforcement personnel stepped out and politely asked Shafiq to accompany him. Strangely though, they paid the rickshaw driver and told him to drop the goods off at the suppliers’ so as not to cause anyone any loss.” When Naqeeb found out, he rushed to the area police station immediately to find out but in vain. Later the same night, he himself was picked up in a similar way instantly after a friend dropped him home. “When Naqeeb returned home he found the door of his rented apartment in pieces,” says Akbar.
“Apparently somebody had done a thorough search of his flat. Minutes later he was whisked away too, presumably by the same people.” Now Zahir has had to travel between provinces to find out about his brother. “Naqeeb was not even in Lahore at the time of the blast, in fact he was in Rawalpindi,” swears Zahir. “He had left Quetta around six years ago. I don’t understand how he could be connected to the attack. He has never been involved in any such activities.” Naqeeb’s arrival in Punjab was due to economic reasons. “There are few employment opportunities in our city, so my brother left for Punjab,” explains Zahir.
“He set up a business here and had been regularly sending 15 to 20 thousand Rupees every month back home. We were very dependent on that money. Our household consists of 16 people and he was our primary breadwinner. I don’t know how we will survive without him,” he laments.
Naqeeb’s disappearance (and the disappearances of several others during the same time frame, that is soon after the Anarkali blast) has left his friends and Lahore’s Pashtun population at large, afraid and insecure. “I have been paralyzed by fear. I have changed my residence, my phone number and have been in partial hiding since Naqeeb’s disappearance. Who knows, they might come for me next?” one close business associate of Naqeeb’s told Voicepk as he opened up.
As the search continues, Naqeeb’s family maintains that state authorities are more than welcome to investigate his life but much like every other citizen they must conduct the investigation under the ambit of the law and the Constitution, instead of extra-legal means. In the meantime they carry on despairingly, hoping for his safe return soon.