April 29, 2022
By Rehan Piracha
“I buy new clothes and tidy his room before every Eid thinking my son will return,” says Rahat Mehmood, mother of Mudassar Nauru, a journalist and blogger missing since 2018. But Eid is now a festival where yearning has replaced joy.
Naaru went missing while on vacation at the scenic hill station of Kaghan with his wife, Sadaf Chughtai, and then six-month-old son, Sachal. The missing journalist’s family launched a campaign for his recovery but it was struck with yet another tragedy last year when Naaru’s wife died of a heart attack under suspicious circumstances.
EID HAPPY NO MORE
Rahat Mehmood says her eyes well up with tears when she thinks of his missing son during the holy month of Ramzan. As the festival day approaches, she becomes even more uneasy, praying incessantly for the safe return of her son.
“Even a knock on the door startles me, being a mother, making me feel that maybe Naaru has come back home,” she says.
Since Naaru’s disappearance four years ago, Rahat irons a dress for her son on the eve of Eid in the forlorn hope that if he is back, he might wear it.
“I pray day and night for his safe return and hope to see him alive in my lifetime,” she says, adding four years is a long and difficult period for a mother to go by without seeing his missing son.
Rahat Mehmood says her grandson Sachal – Naaru’s son – also joins in on the prayer mat whenever he sees her praying for his father’s return.
“Sachal also prays that his ‘chotay abbu’ comes back home soon,” she says while explaining that he believes that it is Mudassar Naaru’s elder brother and his wife who are his biological parents, and not the ones that he has lost.
“Ever since his mother suddenly passed away last year, we have been trying to give Sachal a normal childhood,” says Rahat, adding that he plays around with his paternal cousins and think that they are actually his siblings. But when he sleeps at night, it is only with his grandmother.
“That is why I have to keep him along whenever I go to attend protests and court hearings in Islamabad,” she explains.
HOPE AGAINST HOPE
Rahat Mehmood has also approached the Islamabad High Court to seek recovery of his missing son along with family members of victims of enforced disappearance. She also met then prime minister Imran Khan on a court direction. However, Naaru’s mother says she was surprised when Imran Khan asked about his son’s line of work in the meeting.
“My son disappeared in Imran Khan’s tenure when he wrote a blog questioning the election results,” she says, adding that it was disappointing that the Prime Minister seemed unaware of the circumstances leading to the disappearance.
Rahat Mehmood strongly believes that the State has knowledge of Mudassar Nauru’s whereabouts. “Some from the government tell us that he must have died in an accident while others say he has gone away on his own,” she says, adding that no evidence has come forth to support these claims.
Naaru’s mother has pinned her hope on the new federal government led by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz. PML-N leader Maryam Nawaz had held Sachal in her lap while addressing a press conference in Islamabad.
Rahat Mehmood says she has conveyed several messages to the new interior minister Rana Sanaullah, who belongs to her hometown of Faisalabad. But even now, she has not received any response from the new government functionaries in relation to the disappearance.
The ageing grandmother says she has realised the anguish, pain and agony associated with enforced disappearances after she became a victim. “Enforced disappearance is nothing short of an atomic explosion for the household,” she adds.
“There was a time when my son and his wife were living a happy life in their home. Today, their house is locked and deserted,” she says, adding that she has not had the courage to visit her son’s house in Lahore after her daughter in law Sadaf Chughtai also passed away.
“I have attended several demonstrations organised by families of missing persons from Balochistan and understand exactly what they are going through,” she adds. Recently, she joined a protest for the recovery of a missing student, Hafeez Baloch
Rahat Mehmood appealed to the army chief and the political leadership to bring an end to enforced disappearances in the country. “The Baloch students and other missing persons from Balochistan are our people and the authorities should redress their grievances,” she says.
During the hearings of Naaru’s case in the Islamabad High Court, government functionaries agreed to look into compensation for Naaru’s family. Rahat Mehmood says the State has accepted the responsibility to meet the expenses of Sachal’s upkeep.
“We have received a monthly check from the government for the expenses,” Naaru’s mother disclosed, adding that it was a sigh of relief that their grandson would be taken care of when his grandparents are no longer in the world.
According to Rahat Mehmood, the IHC is to resume hearing of Naaru’s case on May 17, 2022.