A drone victim who was due to travel to Europe this week to give evidence to parliamentarians was detained on 5 February by unknown elements of the Pakistani police and has not been seen since, according to his family.
Kareem Khan, who is also involved in legal proceedings against the Pakistani Government concerning their failure to investigate the deaths of his son and brother in a drone strike, was seized in the early hours at his home in Rawalpindi by 15-20 men in police uniform and plain clothes, say witnesses.
The legal charity Reprieve says the men did not disclose their identities and no reason was given for the detention. Mr. Khan’s wife and young children were present at the time, as was a neighbour.
Despite numerous inquiries to the Pakistani police, Mr Khan’s family has yet to be able to locate him or discover why he was detained. Today, Reprieve’s local partner, the Foundation for Fundamental Rights, filed habeas proceedings on behalf of the family before the Lahore High Court Rawalpindi Branch.
Mr Khan was due to travel to Europe on 21 February, where he was scheduled to speak with German, Dutch and British parliamentarians about his personal experience with drone strikes and the impact such strikes are having on his country. He was also scheduled to talk about his work as a freelance journalist investigating other strikes in the region.
Mr Khan is also involved in legal proceedings on behalf of his brother, Asif Iqbal, a teacher, and his son Zahinullah. Mr Khan has requested the courts order the Pakistani police to launch a criminal investigation into the strike, arguing it constitutes murder under domestic law. The next hearing date before the Islamabad High Court is scheduled for tomorrow (11 February).
Clare Algar, Executive Director of Reprieve, said: “We are very worried about Mr Khan's safety. He is a crucial witness to the dangers of the CIA's covert drone programme, and has simply sought justice for the death of his son and brother through peaceful, legal routes. Reports that he was detained by men in police uniforms are of great concern, and we urge the Government of Pakistan to do everything in its power to secure his immediate release.”
Shahzad Akbar, lawyer for Kareem Khan, and Director of legal charity the Foundation for Fundamental Rights said: “It is a shame that Nawaz Sharif has allowed Pakistan to be a police state, where no fundamental rights are available to its citizens. Kareem Khan is not only a victim, but an important voice for all other civilians killed and injured by US drone strikes. Why are the powers that be so scared of Kareem and his work that they felt the need to abduct him in an effort to silence his efforts? Kareem Khan deserves justice and due process and he should be freed immediately of his illegal captivity.”