On 3rd December 2017, which was also the official global Human Rights Day, Raza Mahmood Khan went to a talk on extremism held amid the recent Islamabad 20-day sit-in by Tehreek-e-Labaik Ya Rasool Allah (TLYRA) protestors. He was, like many other activists, critical of the sit-in. On his way back home he was picked up and that was the last anybody saw of him. Upon further investigation, it was found that his desktop was also missing from his apartment. Raza’s case is neither surprising nor is it going to be the last of its kind. Just at the start of 2017, 5 bloggers and activists went missing in a period of few days. Two of them, who were later released accused intelligence agencies of abducting and torturing them.


Raza Mahmood Khan Source: The Nation

The missing person toll has reached an alarming rate

Supporters of Awami Worker Party hold a demonstration to condemn the missing human rights activists, in Karachi, Pakistan, Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2017.

Last December, the Government’s Commission on Enforced Disappearances reported that the dead bodies of 936 missing persons had been found in the province of Baluchistan alone since 2011. Many Baloch activists and the local outlet voice of Baluchistan claim that more than 18000 Balochi activists and members of separatist groups have been missing and many are presumed dead.


A sit-in for the missing persons in Baluchistan
A sit-in for the missing persons in Baluchistan

In 2017 according to Amnesty International, Pakistan’s Commission on Inquiry on Enforced Disappearances received nearly 300 cases of alleged enforced disappearances from August to October 2017. This is by far the largest number in a three-month period in recent years. Despite the significant number of disappearances, the government remains silent on the issue, we can only wonder why.

The culprit only grows stronger


While these numbers are alarming, to say the least, what’s troubling is the lack of action and voice against the alleged suspects. The government, opposition, media and the military do not want to discuss the elephant in the room; it is not only there but it is feeding off us right in front of our eyes. Mainstream media and its Lollywood rejects (anchors) like Amir Liaqat and several others aren’t too keen to talk about it either. Here’s what Liaqat said on the disappearances of bloggers this year in January “The bloggers’ disappearance is its own issue. They should definitely be produced, but no one should try and hide their crimes, and their crimes are so heinous that no one should … say that they suffered injustice”.

Before this, Khadim Hussain Rizvi in a Friday sermon had said, “These blasphemers who they have captured, whoever has captured them, may Allah bless those people,“. Now it important to note that the bloggers that had gone missing in January were critical of the armed forces and intelligence agencies. Is speaking out against the abductee or the abductor really an act against the government or an act of terror? This narrative helps the agencies carry out these activities and makes it easy for the government to ignore the atrocities. It also pushes an already fragile Article 19 of the 1973 Constitution of Pakistan, which grants freedom of speech and expression to every citizen of this country, towards extinction.

Who was Raza Mahmood Khan?


Raza Mehmood Khan is a member of the Aghaz-e-Dosti (Initiation of Friendship) organization. He is known for his grassroots activism around the issue of India-Pakistan friendship. During the sit-in days, it was noticed he was being critical of the Army but according to his colleague Saeeda Diep, that was very unusual for him. She says that Raza usually kept a low profile, and didn’t have a lot of social media following either. But having no connection and belonging to a lower middle-class family also made him an easy target.

Where do we draw the line? 

(Left): Qamar bajwa, (Right): Shahid Khaqan Abassi

In a country where a man promoting a message of peace is considered more threatening than a banned sectarian outfit leader who openly calls for violence and torture, we not only see a non-existent writ of Government but quite frankly a non-existent Government. That too a government, which is ready to have it’s puppet strings pulled anytime by anyone who is ready to offer them 15 minutes extra on the main stage. The question now isn’t only where Raza Mahmood Khan is but also who will be the next Raza. Will this cycle ever stop? Have we become so weak and insecure that a slight amount of criticism is enough to use force and arms against innocent and peaceful citizens of your own country?

Despite the irony, we’d like to wish you a-

Happy Human Rights Day, Pakistan!


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