Civil society rallies for missing activist Raza Khan’s release

  • Activist says intelligence agencies are ‘real terrorists’ for abducting Raza Khan

LAHORE: Members from various civil rights’ organisations on Monday gathered outside the Lahore Press Club to protest against the enforced disappearance of peace activist, Raza Khan, and demanded that the state should play its role in his recovery.

Raza Khan had gone missing on last Sunday following a discussion session on the topic of extremism in context of a recent sit-in staged by religious parties at Faizabad Interchange and state’s subsequent capitulation to it.

Speaking to Pakistan Today, Diep Saeeda of the Institute for Peace and Secular Studies (IPSS) said that Raza wasn’t involved in any anti-state activity; he was a peace activist who was trying to bridge the gap between Pakistan and India in his own capacity.

“He was not political,” she stressed.

Responding to a question about the discussion on Faizabad fiasco in which Raza participated, she said that everyone was frustrated about the debacle, adding, “We have a right to express ourselves”.

“No state institution has a right to pick up a person on the basis of criticism,” she said.

Women’s rights activist Nighat Saeed Khan said that picking up people for any reason and not granting right to defend themselves is illegal in democratic countries.

She said that if intelligence agencies have picked Khan up then they are the real terrorists.

“We didn’t speak up when people were going missing in Balochistan and Sindh,” she regretted, adding that if the issue was raised then, the disappearances could have been curbed across the country.

Raheemul Haque, who is a close associate of Raza, said that progressive part of the society needs to engage in dialogue with regressive part of the society.

“We don’t receive funding from any international organisation, therefore, I don’t understand the reason for him being picked up,” he added.

Singer Ali Aftab Saeed said that Raza was a peace-loving citizen, and the state institutions should do everything in their power for his recovery.

“First the bloggers went missing, now Raza. How long will it take for the people abducting them to pick us up?” he questioned.

Responding to a question, he said that discussing Faizabad fiasco couldn’t have been the sole reason for Raza going missing as he could name at least five analysts who had spoken about it on TV channels.

“Raza didn’t participate in any political event, he desired peace and worked for that,” he added.

Bilal Farooqi, a senior journalist from Karachi, said that in case Raza has been abducted by intelligence agencies then charges against him should be made public.

“Such a dedicated person has gone missing and I am concerned about his safety,” he added.

Raza’s father, who also joined the protest, demanded that the state intervene in the matter and recover his son.

Responding to a question, he said that his son was working for a private firm and was unaware if his son was involved in activism.

Terming the Faizabad sit-in “religious terrorism”, he said that every citizen has a right to speak about what’s going on in the country.

Photos by Zubair Mehfooz