Just a week shy of his 56th birthday, the affable human rights defender and worker of the Balochistan-based National Party went “missing”–became a victim of enforced disappearance. Just three days before his enforced disappearance, he wrote on his Facebook “na maloom afraad” or unknown persons, a euphemism for the Pakistani spooks.
The victim’s name is Idris Khattak, now 56.
After three weeks of the abduction the premier Pakistan spy service, the Inter-Services Intelligence or ISI admitted that Khattak was in their captivity and that they will disclose more after an inquiry against him is completed in January, his close friends revealed to this writer Monday.
Khattak was forcibly disappeared along with his driver from a toll plaza at the Islamabad-Peshawar Motorway on November 13. They were four “na maloom afraad” who dragged Idris and his driver from their car, covered their faces with hoods, and drove away in plain sight of scores of motorists.
Coincidentally, he had exchanged greetings with his writer on Facebook earlier that fateful day and said he was okay. Khattak’s driver was freed but he is still languishing at an ISI torture cell somewhere in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.
Different theories are circulating regarding the reason for the ISI’s enforced disappearance of Khattak, who had in the past worked for the Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. He is said to have been a researcher acted as a translator of these organizations when they went to interview Afghan refugees. These interviews led to the rubbishing of the “good and bad Taliban” theory propagated by the Deep State of Pakistan. Others say his sin was passing misinformation about the Pakistan army that damages the “prestige” of the soldiers in the eyes of these foreign entities.
Amnesty International has expressed concern that Idris Khattak is most likely being tortured. International human rights activist Peter Tatchell Monday tweeted, “Human rights defender #idriskhattak remains in illegal custody of Pakistan’s #ISI. Family fears he is being tortured & might be killed like many others.”
Pakistan human rights defenders say that at least 5,000 people have been victims of enforced disappearances in the country since 2014– or almost three people each day during the last five years. The problem is worst in Balochistan where an insurgency led to the disappearance of more than 20,000 persons since 2006 when the army killed a popular Baloch politician. The slain politician, Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti, former governor and chief minister of Balochistan, was assassinated on the orders of the then army chief and coup leader Gen Pervez Musharraf. Even elderly Baloch women have fallen victim to enforced disappearances, according to Baloch activists.
It is for these state abductions some Pakistan intellectuals have renamed their country as Gaibistan or the Land of the Disappeared.
In Khattak’s case, his close relatives are serving in high ranks in the Pakistan army, his friends said. But this did not stop him from falling victim to the dreaded state policy of enforced disappearance. “Punjabi generals hold the sway and do not give a damn to their Pashtun counterparts,” says exiled Pashtun activist Pir Riaz Afghan. He adds that angst runs high in the upper echelons of the Pashtun army officials for being treated as the second class citizens by their Punjabi peers.
“The sin Idris Khattak committed was that he was working for a party that advocates for the rights of Baloch people,” said Syed Ghafoor Shah, a university buddy of Khattak from the early 1980s.
DISCLAIMER : Views expressed above are the author’s own.