You may have abducted my father but you can’t take away his bravery

My father, Idris Khattak, a devoted human rights defender and the most selfless man I know, disappeared on 13 November 2019. I have not heard from him. No one has any idea where he could be

Source: Independent

By Talia Khattak

The day before my father disappeared, he told me he was worried. He was reluctant to let me take the train to Karachi. The railways are not safe, he had said, and that he had a bad feeling. We reached a compromise that he would call me every hour to check on me.
I remember wondering how he thought a phone call would save me if the train really had crashed and burned.

I realise now that it was one of the small gestures that parents make when they don’t know what else to do. I recognise it because now all I want is to do the same for him. Call him on the hour to make sure he is okay.

My father, Idris Khattak, a devoted human rights defender and the most selfless man I know, was forcibly disappeared on 13 November 2019. I have not heard from him. No one has any idea where he could be. We don’t even know who took him.

In Pakistan, enforced disappearances have been used as a tool to muzzle dissent and criticism of the state. People are abducted by the very institutions that are supposed to protect them and placed outside the law. There is no arrest warrant, no record, no investigation – as if the person never existed.

My father reported on them regularly, gathering first-hand information for human rights organisations like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. The irony is lost on no one.

I had boarded the train, and almost forgotten about my father’s promise of calling me. When I reached Lahore after nearly five hours, I glanced at my phone to see no missed calls from him. Puzzled, I called him. He answered to say he was very busy and that he would be staying with his friends for a few days. He also added, strangely, that his phone was almost out of battery and he had left his charger at home.

I tried not to make much of it.

When I did not hear from him for the next few days, I started to panic. I would call his dead phone incessantly. I spoke to my aunt, who assured me he was fine and said that she had just spoken to him. I was confused but I believed her. My uncle asked me if I could stay on in Karachi for a few days. I sensed a restrained urgency in his tone as I laughed and asked him who would take my exams if I decided to stay back.

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