Rally for Raza’s release

LAHORE – His family is in a shock after Raza’s alleged abduction. His two sisters are crying continuously and it is becoming difficult to bring them solace, Ismail Khan, father of the missing activist Raza Mehmood Khan, told The Nation on Monday.

Raza’s brother Hamid Khan said Raza was a polite person. “He never lied and has been kidnapped perhaps for speaking the truth,” he said.  Raza went missing on December 2 after he arranged an interactive session on extremism and a religious party’s sit-in in Islamabad at Lowkey Lokai, a public space located in room 709, Al Qadeer Heights, Main Boulevard, Gulberg.

On Monday, Raza’s father, his three sons, civil society representatives and human rights activists staged a demonstration outside the Lahore Press Club to press the government to recover him. Raza was also working for peace between India and Pakistan through a platform, Aghaz-e-Dosti.

People taking part in the protest said Raza’s disappearance was disturbing. They said Raza used to participate in civil society protests regularly. They were holding placards inscribed with slogans such as Mein Raza Hoon (I am Raza), Utho Iss Say Pehly Utha Liye Jao (stand up before you are taken), Qanoon Say Bala Tar Koi Nahi (Nobody is above the law), Me next! and #FindRaza.

Nighad Saeed Khan of Women Action Forum said that enforced disappearances were a testimony to the prevailing lawlessness. Human rights activist and member of Institute of Peace and Secular Studies Saeeda Deep said with tears in her eyes that Raza was a peaceful person who had done nothing wrong or hurt anyone.

“The state is responsible for the disappearance of Raza because it’s state’s responsibility to protect its citizens,” Saeeda said.  “Those who have taken him away should at least tell his family that he is alive and well. Just imagine the trauma the family must be going through,” Saeeda said.

“Raza was a low profile peace activist but now his name has been published in all leading newspapers of the world, including New York Times. Amnesty International is campaigning for his recovery. His disappearance has sent wrong message to the world,” she maintained.

Nineteen years old Hamza Waqas, a student of the Lahore School of Economics and member of the Democratic Students Alliance, said the situation with human rights in Pakistan is deplorable. “The same could happen to me and other young activists if we do not raise voice against his disappearance,” Hamza said.  Activist Rahimul Haque disclosed that Raza’s brother Hamid Nasir had filed a habeas corpus petition in the Lahore High Court. “Citizens rights according to Constitution’s Articles 4, 9 and 10 must be ensured,” he said.

Mazdoor Kissan Party’s Comrade Amjad questioned that if activists like Raza will be taken away and silenced, how will the country develop?

Amar Jan of People’s Solidarity Forum said Raza has become a symbol of resistance.

Founder Director of Right Walk Foundation Samina Bano Rehman said Raza’s disappearance was not a good sign. “We used to protest against the disappearance of people in remote areas of Balochistan. One could not imagine a similar incident taking place in metropolitan Lahore,” she was of the view.

Farooq Tariq from Awami Workers Party said his party feared that some state institutions may be involved in his disappearance. “Raza was promoting peace among children of India and Pakistan by connecting them through Skype. Such a peace loving person should not have been targeted,” Farooq said.  The youngest in the protest was eight-year-old Sachal Nadeem, a student of fourth grade in Divisional Public School. “I demand release of uncle Raza,” he shouted.

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