LAHORE - Aghaz e Dosti, Lowkey Lokai and Hum Sab Aik Hain staged a demonstration against enforced disappearances outside the Lahore Press Club on Saturday.

Demonstrators demanded recovery of human rights activist Raza Khan who has been missing since December 2. They announced a sit-in outside the Lahore Press Club on March 31 to mount pressure on the government to recover the missing persons.

The protesters were holding placards inscribed with slogans such as “Where is Raza?”, “Find Raza”, “Say No To Enforced Disappearances” and “Raise Your Voice for Missing Persons”.

According to an inquiry commission, the number of missing person increased from 217 to 223 in Punjab, from 200 to 300 in Sindh and from 654 to 664 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in 2016.

A Supreme Court bench consisting of Justice Ejaz Afzal Khan, Justice Maqbool Baqar and Justice Faisal Arab is hearing missing persons cases. At the last hearing, the secretary of the Inquiry Commission on Enforced Disappearances informed the court the commission had disposed of 3,000 cases and 1,577 were pending.

Muhammad Shoaib of Justice Project Pakistan demanded that Raza Khan and other missing persons should be taken to court and given access to free trail.

According to Rahimul Haque, the current rate of illegal abductions is three citizens a day. “Ethnic and religious communities like Baloch, Shias, Hazaras and Pakhtuns are the most vulnerable,” Rahim said.

He said there have already been eight hearings of the high court in Raza Khan case and one hearing of the commission, but no information about his whereabouts has been shared. The next hearing is set for March 22.

“If they are anti-state elements and this is the reason the state is picking them up, why does not the state produce them in the court and give them access to free trial with due process?” he asked.

Advocate Ramis Suhail said Raza Khan’s disappearance was not just about him; it undermines the basic rights for all citizens.

Muhammad Ismael, father of Raza Khan, made an appeal for recovery of all missing people. He came from Kasur to participate in the Lahore protest.

Farooq Tariq of Awami Workers’ Party said the state seems to be unaccountable and above its own law. He said the protest will not be stopped at any cost.

“We will be forced to stage a sit-in for the recovery of Raza Khan. Raza Khan was working for peace between two countries. If he has done anything wrong, he must be tried in court,” he said.

Saeeda Deep of the Institute of Peace and Secular Studies said it has been three months since abduction of Raza Khan. His family and friends have tried all avenues to bring him back but have thus far been disappointed. She said that suspects at infamous Guantanamo Bay have some rights and Red Cross visits them regularly to check their health but here in Pakistan the authorities consider themselves above the law.

Ramis Suhail said: “We see families of the disappeared and civil society protesting in all parts of the country and not a single week goes by without a protest. This should stop.”