LAHORE: The Progressive Students Federations (PSF) and the Progressive Youth Organisation (PYO), the students’ and youth wing of the PPP, organised a protest on Thursday outside the Lahore Press Club to mark the second year of disappearance of journalist and blogger Mudassar Mahmood Naaru.

Two years ago, Naaru went on a vacation to the Kaghan valley but disappeared there. He was last spotted near the river Kaghan. Initially, his family and friends thought that he might have accidentally fallen into the river and drowned but his body was never found. Others began speculating that Naaru might have killed himself, a claim instantly rejected by the family, saying he had no signs of despair.

His family registered a first information report against ‘unidentified persons’. When the police refused to cooperate, they were forced to approach the civil rights organisations but to no avail. A few months following his disappearance, one of friends said he had spotted Naaru at a detention centre for ‘missing persons’. That was the last time anyone had heard of him.

“We have contacted the commission on missing persons but even after two years’ no one seems to know his whereabouts,” says Naaru’s father.

A few days before his disappearance, Naaru had put a status claiming that he had been receiving threatening calls from ‘unidentified people’ but he remained undeterred.

“These unknown agencies are still threatening us,” alleges Naaru’s father.

Ammar Jan, a civil society activist, who was also present at the protest, said, “This protest is not just about Mudassar. It’s about all those who have been picked up by the state for speaking out against injustice”.

Naaru’s mother said, “We are not powerful people. We are not even political in the true sense of the word. Like all mothers, I just want my son to come back.

Zohaib Butt, an activist associated with the PPP, says, “I have personally attended many hearings of the commission on missing persons and I believe that the commission is wasting our time. The judge himself fails to appear in many of these hearings,” alleges Butt who opines that they were protesting after waiting for a long time.

“All formal channels have failed. We will try to expand scope of these protests to build pressure for Mudassar’s release,” he declared.

The members of the Pakistan Bar Council, Progressive Writers Association and human rights organisations were present.

Published in Dawn, August 21st, 2020

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