Peace activist Raza Khan goes missing after debate on Labaik sit-in

Raza Khan 01LAHORE: A peace activist, Raza Khan, has gone missing on Sunday following a discussion session on the topic of extremism in context of a recent sit-in staged by religious parties and state’s subsequent “capitulation” to it.

According to details available with local media, a discussion session on the said issue was held at a local community space, Low-Key Lokai, in which a number of activists belonging to all strata of society participated, including Raza.

The news caught the attention of social rights activist Jibran Mohammad Nasir who shared it on his Facebook page.

Calling upon Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif, Jibran Nasir wrote, “Activist Raza Khan has gone missing from his house in Lahore. He helps manage progressive space Low-key Lokai and is the convener of Aghaz-e-Dosti an initiative to bring Indian and Pakistani students closer. His brother filed app but Police has [not] registered FIR as of yet.”

“In a dialogue conducted on extremism, the Faizabad sit-in naturally came under discussion along with the role of the army, courts, and federal government, besides the signed agreement,” one of the participants told local media.

On Nov 6, workers of Tehreek-e-Labbaik Ya Rasool Allah (TLYR) and activists of other religious groups camped at the Faizabad Interchange in Islamabad against the hastily-abandoned change in the oath of elected representatives, virtually paralysing the twin cities for more than two weeks.

Police and Frontier Constabulary (FC) personnel had launched an operation against the protesters after the high court had ordered the clearance of the bridge that connects the federal capital with Rawalpindi. The same day, Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa had advised Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi to “handle the Islamabad dharna peacefully”.

The day-long operation had culminated with the government seeking the military’s assistance to disperse the participants who had put up fierce resistance to the security personnel’s action.

However, the army had said in its response that while it was “fully ready” to take action, a “few points need deliberation”. Subsequently, no troops were deployed in the city.

The group called off its nationwide protests on Nov 27 after the government conceded to the TLYR demands, including dropping all the cases against the protesters and law minister Zahid Hamid’s resignation.

One of the organisers of the session told Pakistan Today that they had been conducting sessions on social and political issues for the last five months, which were moderated by the various academics.

“This Sunday we gathered to hold an open discussion on the after-effects of the recent disturbance in the country,” he recalled, adding that all democratic societies categorically endorse the freedom of speech.

In a reply to question if they have approached law enforcement authorities, he said, “The Naseerabad police have not registered an FIR despite the fact that an application was filed by us,” adding, “they have called us in the morning though.”

However, on Tuesday Morning, the police registered an FIR against unidentified men and have said that they would probe into the matter.

The police took notice of the matter on an application of the missing activist’s brother, Hamid Nasir Mehmood.

The applicant has said: “My brother’s cell phone was switched off on December 2, after which I visited his home but he was not in his room.”

“My brother has been abducted by an unidentified man, for unknown reasons,” he added, requesting the Station House Officer (SHO) to take legal action and address the family’s plight.

Another post updated on the social media states, “Our friend Raza Khan, a peace activist is missing since yesterday. We last met him Saturday evening for an open discussion on extremism, specifically focusing on the dharna, at Low-key Lokai. It was a frank, open but also a heated discussion.”

Terming Raza a “peace lover and critical thinker”, the post goes on to say, “Raza is the Pakistan convener of Aghaz-e-Dosti, a Pakistan India citizen peace initiative which brings together children through letter exchange & peace art; he is at the forefront of Low-key Lokai and a member of the Awami Art Collective as well.

Mentioning Raza’s commitment to democratic principles of the state and his participation in the restoration of judiciary, the post shows concern about the whereabouts of the activist. “We have checked 1122 & hospitals and his home,” but there is no trace of Raza.

“His brother has filed an application in police and we hope and pray that he is safe, and whoever has abducted him understands that he represents love, peace and justice.”

The post ends with a note “is that too much to ask?” –First Published in Pakistan Today

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