Activists from the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan protest against the killing of lawyer Rashid Rehman in 2014. The group has condemned the government for its lack of action over the Nov. 13 kidnapping of activist Idris Khattak. (Photo: AFP)
A human rights defender known for documenting cases of enforced disappearance in Pakistan's northwest has allegedly been abducted by security agencies.
Idris Khattak, who worked as a consultant for Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, was kidnapped on Nov. 13 by men in plain clothes en route from Islamabad to his home town of Swabi.
Pakistan’s independent rights commission suspected that it was another case of a possible enforced disappearance.
“It has now been a week since human rights defender and political activist Idris Khattak was abducted, allegedly by unidentified people in Swabi,” said the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) on Nov. 20.
“The commission has strong reason to believe that this abduction is a possible enforced disappearance given that the family say there is no evidence of kidnapping for ransom.
“If indeed there are grounds for his detention, these must be established with strict recourse to due process. That the state has not responded to this incident is cause for concern because it reflects indifference toward the grave problem of enforced disappearances and arbitrary detention, and little respect for the due process of law.”
The HRCP urged the police to cooperate fully with Khattak’s family to track him down and demanded the state take due notice of the incident.
Cecil Chaudhry, executive director of the National Commission for Justice and Peace, the human rights arm of the Catholic Church in Pakistan, said the minority community stood by those affected by the issue.
“The NCJP supports the HRCP’s demand for the safe return of Idris Khattak, and other missing people, in accordance with the law and the constitution,” Chaudhry told ucanews. “We have always raised our voices for those who unfortunately end up as missing people for speaking up on issues of human rights.”
Ammar Rashid, a leader of the left-wing Awami Workers Party, claimed there was complicity by the government and courts.
“Idris Khattak’s disappearance is a chilling reminder of the impunity with which security agencies continue to flout the law and terrorize anyone who speaks up. Both the government and the courts seem fully complicit,” he said.
Khattak’s disappearance is the second high-profile disappearance in recent weeks.
Prof. Mohammad Ismail, the father of rights activist Gulalai Ismail, was last month picked up from outside the High Court in Peshawar. Two days later, investigators arraigned him in a local court, claiming he was being held on accusations of being involved in cybercrime.