News Karnataka
Saturday, April 01 2023

Rising unease over missing Pakistani activist

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Islamabad: There is rising unease about the fate of a Pakistani activist who has been reported missing since last week, the media reported on Thursday.

Raza Khan from Lahore disappeared after attending a public discussion on a recent, controversial protest by a hardline religious group, reports the BBC.

On December 2, Khan helped organise a small public event in Lahore which discussed the recent sit-in by a new Islamist political party.

The protesters, accusing a government minister of committing blasphemy, had caused mass disruption in Islamabad, turning violent when police attempted to intervene.

The Army had then facilitated an agreement between the demonstrators and the government, resulting in the minister’s resignation and all the protesters’ other demands being met.

Umair Vahidi, a friend of Khan who was also at the public meeting, told the BBC that it had been a “frank and open discussion”.

“People shared their conflicting points of view… There was no hostility.”

Blasphemy laws “and how they can be used to target minorities” had also been discussed, Vahidi said.

Vahidi told the BBC the discussion had finished around 8 p.m. on December 2 when all of the participants went home. That was the last he or any of his friends heard from Khan.

“I started calling Raza at about 1.30 p.m. the next day and his phone was off. We started calling his friends.”

After being unable to contact him throughout the day, Vahidi and a group of other friends visited his house where the light was on which was “unusual”.

The door was locked, he added, and “nothing was missing from his room. There were no signs of struggle… The neighbours, the landlord, nobody knew anything..

However, on a later search, Vahidi said they noticed while Khan’s computer screen was still in his room, the computer base unit was missing.

Vahidi told the BBC that he was not aware of Khan having received any threats, but said he had told him some of the people attending his events “would sign the register with different names each time”.

Meanwhile, civil rights campaigners have raised concerns about a crackdown on dissenting voices in Pakistan since six bloggers went missing in January.

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