IN a disturbing development, it has been reported that an SECP official has been abducted from the capital. The family of Sajid Gondal, a joint director at the SECP, and also a former journalist, said he has been missing since Thursday night. His relatives have lodged a complaint with the police and also approached the Islamabad High Court with a plea for his recovery. At the hearing of the petition, Justice Athar Minallah noted that the abduction of a citizen from the capital in this manner was “extremely alarming” and directed authorities to trace Mr Gondal by Monday.

The disappearance of Mr Gondal comes little more than a month after the brief abduction of journalist Matiullah Jan, who was forcefully taken in broad daylight by unidentified men as he waited outside a school in Islamabad. Despite the fact that Mr Jan’s abduction was captured by a CCTV camera and elicited a deafening public outcry, the probe into who is behind the episode remains incomplete. The tragedy of our times is that these abductions are not uncommon. Rights activist Idrees Khattak, who was abducted last year in November, remains missing. More recently, activist Sarang Joyo, went missing and was later released by ‘unknown persons’ late at night. The pattern is eerily similar: citizens are picked up, their families run from pillar to post to seek help, yet there is no justice. Loved ones can at best hope that the ‘missing person’ will return, even if an explanation remains elusive. These events and the secrecy which shrouds them are an indictment of the law. While the Constitution says that no one is above the law, it appears that some authorities are answerable to no one. It is not enough that Human Rights Minister Shireen Mazari has condemned Mr Gondal’s kidnapping. The prime minister in a recent interview was callously dismissive when he referred to Mr Jan’s abduction. The government must fulfil its responsibility to protect citizens and provide an explanation for these disturbing episodes. Condemnations are not enough.

Published in Dawn, September 6th, 2020

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