Who Is Idris Khattak? The Human Rights Activist Went Against Pakistan Over 'Forced Disappearances'

Idris was the General Secretary of Alumni Association of Russian Graduates in Pakistan, read to know more

A Graduate from Soviet University and consultant to the Amnesty International, Idris Khattak had earned a doctorate in Anthropology. He was 56 in November 2019 when he was captured by unknown men in civil dress, at the Swabi Toll Plaza near Peshawar-Islamabad Motorway. Father to two daughters – Shumaisa and Talia Khattak, Idris was always inclined towards rational approach, and the same he pursued his career with the Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International (AI).

Idris was vocal against the enforced disappearances of several individuals in Pakistan, which is alleged to be an act by the Pakistani military. Little did Idris know on November 13 last year while he was returning from a visit to her sister's place in Islamabad when he was shocked to see few men approach the rented car in which he was seated.

They stopped the car, and till the AI representative in Pakistan could understand what was happening, he and his driver were masked, while Idris was handcuffed and thrown into another car, that fled with the duo.

Idris Has Been Missing

Idrees Khattak
Idris Khattak Twitter/Tahir Ali Anwar

Since then, personnel from AI and HRW along with his daughters have been tracking the whereabouts of Idris. He was the General Secretary of Alumni Association of Russian Graduates in Pakistan and was frequently seen in gatherings that were organized here. Most graduates from Russian varsities attended such occasions who were fond of Idris's rational concepts over his findings on many issues, Pakistan as a country faced and still reels under.

Pakistan before Nawaz Sharif and Imran Khan was a military-ruled state, where Musharraf made sure no development takes place without his intervention. However, things changed and in 2018, the Federal Minister for Human Rights Shireen Mazari condemned the practice of forced abductions/ disappearances. Mazari asked Prime Minister Imran Khan to also sign the International Convention against Enforced Disappearance, that Pakistan has always avoided doing.

It must be recalled here that Idris was a member of many community programs and groups, one of which was the Pashtun Group of Journalists in Pakistan. Three days before he was abducted, Idris in a state of a dilemma over happenings around him had shared a post from the Pashtun page.

Idris Had Aims of Freeing Thousands of Captured Individuals

A man in spectacles is speaking in the video, when he says, "Pehle mere ghar ke andar mujhko katl karein aur phir mera shok manaein. Na malum apradh, na inka koi maslakh, aur na koi nasl. Kamm se bas pehchanne jaien, na malum apradh..." This translates to: "First you kill us in our home, and then you grieve for us! There isn't any crime, or issue connected to us, nor are our origins known. We are only recognised by our work, and not by any crime......"

The video shared by Idris clearly speaks of his rationalistic mind that aimed on freeing thousands of individuals who remain captured to this day in Pakistan. Mohsin Dawar, member of Pakistan National Assembly for North Waziristan and the leader of Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM), had raised the issue over Idris's capture, in the assembly. Dawar's mic was muted, only to provoke his dissent against the wrong, he said, "They can mute my mic, but they cannot mute my voice for voiceless across Pakistan and the world."

Khattak was actively involved in tracing and tracking the whereabouts of the individuals who were forced to disappear. He also is said to have made shocking revelations over a few who disappeared and later were accused by the government in Pakistan as terrorists. This led to either their life sentence or were given the death penalty as capital punishment.

According to the Human Rights Watch, a commission that was set up to probe the enforced disappearances, there are 2,228 cases that have remained in files, while the global rights' bodies demand Pakistan to act. In May this year, the Director of HRW, Brain Adams warned Pakistan and said, "The Pakistani government should urgently investigate and report on the whereabouts of the activist Idris Khattak, who has been missing for nearly six months."

AI Started #WhereisIdrisKhattak

Of late, global body Amnesty International (AI) started a petition on its website with a hashtag #WhereisIdrisKhattak that was suggested by his daughter Talia, who narrated her helplessness to the world through her words in The Independent. AI has urged visitors on its website to sign the petition, while the motive of the words 'where is Idris Khattak' has seemingly been achieved. AI writes on its site, "Over half a year after he was last heard from, authorities finally admitted that they have Idris in their custody. Demand justice for Idris Khattak."

In the latest development, an expert committee of the United Nations, Geneva has called Idris's abduction as an 'intolerable attack' on the legitimate findings of the Human Rights Defender. The expert committee in a joint statement has ruled that "Pakistan must conduct an impartial investigation into the abduction and incommunicado detention of Idris Khattak."

The UN committee further added, "Even today, Khattak remains deprived of the most basic protections of the law and his enforced disappearance subjected him and his family to severe and prolonged suffering, that could amount to torture."

Meanwhile, it has to be mentioned that there are thousands of such individuals who remain in the disappeared category to this day. Almost a decade before Idris was abducted, Robert Fisk penned down the horror of the most brutal force in Pakistan that treats humans in the worst possible manner, inside the detentions.

His article highlights the traumatizing facts that were narrated to him by the wife of Masood Janjua. His wife Amina speaks about what she calls "they", and points out that the forces that abducted her husband and at least 8,000 more men in 2005 are referred to as "they" – as she says that no one talks about "them".

Assembly session where Mohsin Dawar spoke and his mic was muted Twitter
A tweet by UN Special Procedures warning Pakistan over Enforced Disappearances Twitter
Tweet by UN demanding fair probe by Pakistan into Idrees Khattak's disappearance Twitter