Journalists and members of civil society organizations held a protest for Mudassar Mahmood Naaru outside the National Press Club (NPC) in Islamabad today. This protest marks three years since the disappearance of the journalist and poet in August 2018.
Human rights activists have stated that Naaru is a victim of enforced disappearances which have plagued Pakistan’s journey towards democratization for years now. His wife Sadaf Chughtai had been leading the effort for the recovery of her husband, until her death earlier this year. Human rights activists and journalists have been trying to raise attention around the plight of their three-year-old-son Sachal after the disappearance of his father and the death of his mother.
Naaru’s mother Rahat Mahmood had expressed her support for today’s protest outside the National Press Club, and the family attended the protest today. In a video circulating on social media, she noted her family’s legal efforts as well as appeals to Prime Minister Imran Khan for the safe recovery of her son.
In August 2018, Mudassar Naaru had been on holiday in the country’s mountainous northern regions when he disappeared. Police officials were reluctant to register a case, which is a phenomenon that human rights activists have noted in other such disappearances too. Eventually, a case was registered some 2 months after Naaru’s disappearance.
Earlier this year, in June, Minister for Human Rights Shireen Mazari introduced the Criminal Laws (Amendment) Act, 2021. This legislation has sought to criminalize the practice of enforced disappearances, stipulating a 10-year prison term for anyone found guilty of it. However, journalists and human rights activists have emphasized that safety for critical voices relies on implementation of existing legislation, and not necessarily the creation of new laws.