Till recently, Punjab was fortunate enough in the sense that people would not disappear as rapidly and arbitrarily as in other parts of the country. However, the silence of Punjab on missing persons has encouraged those who have little tolerance for dissent to silence differing opinions in Punjab as well. The recent wave of disappearances in Punjab started with the abduction of Salman Haider and four other people in January this year. What was their crime? They dared to dissent against the state practices.
The recent victim of forceful disappearance is Raza Mehmood Khan who speaks for Pak-India peace initiatives. Being a critical mind and someone in pursuit of a pluralist Pakistani society, he criticised the Faizabad protests recently. He was someone who disapproved of the way army behaved against the orders of the civilian government.
Whether he will be released or his bullet-ridden body will be dumped somewhere, nothing can be said with certainty. Nevertheless, the situation is alarming as those who speak their mind are hunted down. It seems that there is a race between the Hindu extremists in India and the right-wingers and religious fanatics in Pakistan to lynch and coerce the intellectuals, thinkers, and critics from not asking the hard questions.
The disappearance of the peace activist is highly condemnable. His abduction is nothing but a violation of the fundamental rights guaranteed to people under the Constitution of Pakistan. If there is any charge against him, he should be presented before a magistrate, and he should be informed of his crime.
The state needs to take every possible measure to ensure the safe recovery of the activist. Silencing people through coercive actions like this will not solve the crisis Pakistan is facing. In fact, the absence of criticism, which a handful people are so keen on achieving, is the greatest threat to freedom.