The peace activist Raza Khan has been released after being kept in illegal detention of seven months. While police insist that he has been recovered, their reluctance to disclose the names of abductors means that the police are well aware of who was involved in his disappearance. The inability of the state to trace out the ones behind Raza’s abduction makes the government complacent in the illegal kidnapping of Mr Khan.

There is growing thinking in some institutions that curtailing dissent by coercive measures will make the country pure. However, what they fail to realise is that their actions will snatch away all the freedoms that the constitution grants to the people of Pakistan. Though civil society and human rights organisations did not forget Raza for a single day, what they lack is a continuous struggle against the instances of forceful disappearances. In some parts of this country, forceful disappearances are a norm. We have seen the emergence of Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM) as evidence for such a gruesome practice.

In the case of Raza, what is beyond comprehension is that the news regarding his release was made public ten days after he was set free. Why was his release not made public on the same day he was released? Moreover, officials turning away journalists who were inquiring about the abductors and their motive mean that officials know the abductors very well. This, in turn, means that no legal action will be taken against those who had abducted the peace activist. The assumption –not a misplaced one at all– that officials will take no legal action against the abductors automatically makes the state a partner in crime.

Nonetheless, the abduction of Raza Khan was a message to all those who want to see a pluralistic Pakistan. Through the illegal detention of Raza, the unseen forces want to create an atmosphere of fear and complacency where no dissent will be tolerated. If the state takes no legal recourse against Raza’s kidnappers, then it also believes in a Pakistan where criticism of any kind is discouraged.

Those who believe that the state and its institutions should respect and honour the freedoms granted by the constitution of Pakistan also need to keep the fact in mind that protecting these freedoms is a fight in itself. While the state will not encourage dissent, we as people need to remain cognizant of the fact that the absence of criticism is the greatest threat to our freedoms. No matter how adverse situation becomes, the state should be resisted whenever it decides to snatch away our freedoms.