Missing social activist Raza Khan found


–Police official says Raza was recovered 10 days ago, he’s in good health but is refraining from giving a statement about his disappearance seven months ago


LAHORE: Social activist Raza Mahmood Khan, who had been missing for the past seven months, returned home on Friday.

Raza, a convener of Aghaz-i-Dosti — a friendship initiative between the youth of India and Pakistan — was reportedly picked up by men in plain clothes from his Model Colony residence in Gulberg on December 2, 2017.

Activists belonging to various rights groups, along with friends and family, had since been agitating for Raza’s release. They had condemned the ‘enforced disappearance’ of activists and attempts to silence and harass those speaking up for peace and human rights.

Model Town SP Investigation Mohammad Imran said that Punjab police had recovered Raza 10 days ago. He, however, did not disclose further details about where Raza was found.

Raza is in good health but he is not willing to give a statement about his disappearance due to “security concerns”.

Speaking to Pakistan Today after the incident had happened, Diep Saeeda of the Institute for Peace and Secular Studies (IPSS) said that Raza had not been 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 apolitical,” she stressed.

Responding to a question about the discussion on Faizabad fiasco in which Raza participated, she had 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 had also said then.

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

International rights organisation Amnesty International, in a statement issued following Raza’s disappearance, had demanded that the Pakistani government ensure the recovery of the Lahore-based activist.

“The Pakistani authorities must take all measures as may be necessary to investigate Raza Khan’s fate immediately,” Amnesty’s Deputy South Asia Director Dinushika Dissanayake had said.

“Scarcely does a week go by without Amnesty International receiving reports of people going missing in Pakistan,” Dissanayake had said. “Many of them may have been subjected to enforced disappearances, which is a crime under international law.”

Many prominent incidents of disappeared social activists have come to light recently; earlier last year, the news of five activists going missing had elicited a strong response from activists in Pakistan and abroad.

Prior to that, Zeenat Shahzadi, a young journalist who was pursuing the case of an Indian citizen, went missing in 2015. Driven to despair, her younger brother had committed suicide.