The forced disappearance of the human rights activist and lawyer on Thursday, when he was taken away from outside his home in Karachi by men in a telltale white Vigo, was made even worse on Friday when the Karachi police denied all knowledge of him, and though he returned on Friday evening, it was no thanks to the police. His abductors’ vehicle and the way he was returned raised suspicions that he had been picked up by the proverbial agencies. However, there seems no reason for them to do so, because while there is a lot of activity because of the May 9 attacks on military installations, he was not involved in any of the attacks. He has said that the attackers should not be tried in military courts, but that is hardly a criticism that has not been made by countless others. The detention seemed to be a settling of scores of some kind.
Someone more closely linked to the PTI, TV anchor Imran Riaz Khan, who is actually accused of inciting protests on May 9, has also been missing since his disappearance after May 11, when he was arrested by the Sialkot Police while trying to leave the country. The Lahore High Court has repeatedly directed the Punjab Police to produce him, to no avail. It is damaging to the reputation of the police to be unable to locate a person. Producing a free citizen might cause problems, but learning where anyone is located should be no problem for any SHO who is not monumentally incompetent.
The only conclusion possible in both cases is that the concerned police forces were trying to avoid embarrassment, either for themselves or some other organization. These unexplained disappearances are being given considerable play abroad, and are thus becoming reasons for the country’s being labelled as a violator of human rights in the comity of nations. Organizations trying to avoid embarrassment are thus bringing the country into disrepute. Worse, they are laying the country open to attack from its hostile neighbour to the East. The Punjab and Sindh governments should not allow these disappearances to go unexplained, and must ensure that the families of both men at least know where these men are, and that the law is properly followed. If either man is required to answer for any crime, he should be made to do so, but only in open court, and by following due process.