Sounding the alarm over sharp increase in enforced disappearances
In late 2017, international alarm rose over the sharp increase in enforced disappearances in Pakistan. According to Amnesty International, between August and October 2017 nearly 300 reported cases of disappearances reached the Commission on Inquiry on Enforced Disappearances.
The Committee Against Torture also expressed serious concern over cases of torture reported in 2017. Human rights watchdogs worry that the high number of enforced disappearances and incidents of torture are emblematic of a culture of impunity against human rights defenders and dissents who are primarily targeted in Pakistan. CIVICUS Monitor partner, the Asia Human Rights Commission (AHRC) commented on the grave situation, stating that:
"The AHRC also lauds the concerns of the UN office in pointing out the plights of the human rights defenders in Pakistan, who are subjected to enforced disappearances, torture, extrajudicial killings and fictitious cases...The government must release and recover the human rights defenders who have been disappeared after their arrests by law enforcement agencies, particularly from the military and intelligence agency custody".
In a recent example on 2nd December 2017, social activist Raza Mehmood Khan went missing in Lahore after participating in a discussion on religious extremism in Pakistan. Khan is a well-known activist who manages Lowkey Lokai in Lahore, an effort to create a safe space for progressive dialogue on political issues as well as the pro-peace CSO Aaghaz-e-Dosti. Attention was drawn to his disappearance in the #FindRaza campaign on Twitter. While an investigation has been opened, his whereabouts remain unknown at the time of writing this update.
AHRC has also drawn attention to the growing number of other HRDs who have been disappeared, and more information on their cases can be accessed here.