Pakistani Activist Arrest Draws Fire

The arrest and alleged torture of a rights activist, who has vigorously been pursuing the cases of dozens of missing Pakistanis, has drawn rebuke from human rights organizations.

Pakistani Activist Arrest Draws Fire

"This government has a long, dark and lamentable track record of human rights violations to its credit," Asadullah Bhutto, Chairman of the Human Rights Network, told

"And Khalid Khawaja's illegal arrest is another sequel of that record."

Khawaja, the founder and chairman of the Defense of Human Rights (DHR), went missing last Friday after he left his home for the Fajr prayer in a nearby mosque.

The mosque administration later told his family he never reached the place of worship.

The police announced his arrest the very next day and produced him before a court on charges of possessing materials promoting religious hatred and extremism.

"He is lucky that his family knows his whereabouts at least," said Bhutto.

"And this is just because his arrest could not be kept secret as he is a prominent man."

Khawaja was a main figure in all anti-government demonstrations held in the country during the recent past.

His DHR has been providing legal assistance to the families of missing Pakistanis.

Intelligence and independent sources estimate the number of missing Pakistanis at nearly 700, mostly believed to be in the custody of intelligence agencies.

Families of various "detainees" have taken their cases to the courts, which have issued strict orders to the interior ministry to inform the judiciary of their whereabouts.

According to the constitution, civil courts, including the Supreme Court, cannot try any case against armed forces.

Warning Message

Human rights organizations insist the arrest is a message to all those who have been championing basic human rights in the country.

"This is a message to human rights activists to give in, but we take his arrest as a challenge and vow that our struggle will continue despite all highhandedness," said a deviant Bhutto.

Amina Masood, a human rights activist, agreed.

"He was abducted in the same manner in which hundreds of people have been," she said.

"The government is using such cowardly tactics to pressurize Khawaja and other human rights activists, but we want to tell [President] General Musharraf and his company that we will not cowed down by such attempts."

The government denied the charge.

"This is not true that Khawaja has been arrested because he was pursuing the case of missing people," Interior Minister Aftab Sherpao told reporters.

"He is involved in inciting the sectarian hatred," he said, adding that the government had cogent proof against Khawaja that would be produced before the court.

A senior interior ministry official who did not want to be named told IOL that Khawaja had been taken in custody for playing a "negative" role in the ongoing controversy about the government demolition of some mosques.

Khawaja was acting as a coordinator between the government and scholars during the talks to resolve the confrontation over the thorny issue.

The government insists the targeted mosques have been illegally constructed on state-owned lands while critics, including religious parties, accuse the regime of trying to appease the US.


Masood, the rights activist, said Khawaja was not being allowed to meet any body, even his son.

"When he went to meet him in the police station, various plain-clothed policemen stood on his head to make sure that he could not meet his father for more than 3-4 minutes," she added.

The family members are worried bout his health condition and possible mistreatment.

"We have heard that my father has been shifted to that part of jail, where prisoners are tortured," his elder son Huzaifa said in an e-mail to human rights activists and the media.

"Please do something so that he is not subjected to torture. Please spread the word through media and any other sources you have," he appealed.

"Abbu (father) wasn't well. He was supposed to get treatment. I again appeal to all you people to please save my father," wrote an emotional Huzaifa.

Khawaja has accused the police of subjecting him to mental and physical torture, and asked the Chief Justice to take suo moto notice of his "illegal" detention and inhuman treatment at the police station.

"During last three days, I was not allowed to meet with relatives and was not being given medicines for diabetes," a handcuffed Khawaja told reporters.

He accused the government of gagging his voice by force.

Güncelleme Tarihi: 20 Eylül 2018, 18:16