WHERE IS NAVEED BUTT?
Where is Naveed Butt? According to Hizb ut Tahrir (Party of Liberation) website, their official spokesperson was seized off the street in Pakistan shortly before Jummah prayers on Friday 11th May and bundled into a car. Disturbingly he was taken in front of his children, the site alleges that Pakistani agencies may be involved.
Hizb ut Tahrir (HuT) is “an international Sunni pan-Islamic political organisation”. They are commonly associated with promoting the goal of an Islamic state (caliphate) under Islamic (sharia) law with a caliph, head of state elected by Muslims. Often seen as controversial, HuT claims to be non-violent though attempts have been made to link the organisation with terrorist groups. HuT is estimated to have around 1 million members in 40 countries and is covered by a ban in some states.
This article however is not intended to discuss the pros and cons of Hizb ut Tahrir, nor is it meant to either condemn or support. The purpose of my writing this piece is to uphold the true meaning of human rights as a long term activist which is that human rights cannot be selective. If we truly support freedom of speech, freedom from mental and physical cruelty, legal representation, freedom from torture, then human rights must be applied to all. If we become judge and jury as to who is “worthy” of human rights, we then violate the very principles that we claim to uphold.
In recognised international standards of human rights, if someone is detained, they must know why they are being held and either be released without charge or if evidence of an alleged crime is found then given access to a lawyer. The detainee’s family must be informed of their detention and informed of their rights of access to their family member. A person must be held without being physically or mentally abused, have access to any required medical treatment and have the right to a fair trial whether a detainee in Guantanamo or an individual held by the authorities in Pakistan and elsewhere.
The wife of Naveed Butt has written an open letter to key figures in Pakistan, General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani (Chief of Staff Pakistan Army and former Director General of the Inter Services Security Agency (ISI), Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gillani and President Asif Ali Zadari voicing her concerns. This can be found on the HuT website. She recalls that after witnessing the abduction “my children became very frightened and they came home crying. My one son is ten years, another son is nine and my daughter is only six, whereas my smallest is at home, a son of two years.”
One can only imagine the distress of these young children confused and in shock as they watched their father and protector taken from them then left unsupervised in the middle of the street.
Naveed Butt is one of a long line of “enforced disappearances” in Pakistan which include academics, doctors, political activists, students and journalists.
On 12th May, hundreds of persons from HuT turned out to protest outside a London hotel where Pakistani Prime Minsister Gilani was thought to be staying. On 14th May 2012, Islamabad High Court ordered that Naveed Butt must be produced on 18th May 2012 in court, after his abduction allegedly by government agencies on 11th May, and must not be handed over to foreign agencies. There were also concerns over other activists having been seized while distributing leaflets about Naveed Butt’s enforced disappearance.
Despite the order from a lawyer there is still no sign of Naveed Butt.
Amnesty International has highlighted previous enforced disappearances and this statement appears on its website:-
A judicial Commission of Enquiry on Enforced Disappearances has failed to resolve the crisis or to hold the security forces and intelligence agencies to account in cases implicating them. The Prime Minister of Pakistan who controls the security agencies needs to urgently step in to address this human rights situation.
Amnesty urges supporters to sign a petition supporting the following:-
I call upon the Prime Minister of Pakistan to end the practice of enforced disappearance and hold those responsible to account. In particular, I urge you to:
– Ensure the Commission of Inquiry on Enforced Disappearances has the power and resources to investigate cases of alleged disappearance.
– Ensure all individuals subjected to enforced disappearance are released or brought promptly before regular civilian courts and charged with a recognizable criminal offence.
– Ensure that those responsible for ordering or carrying out the enforced disappearances are brought to justice.
Human Rights Watch (Pakistan) described the country as having a disastrous year with regard to human rights in 2011 and details the many problems faced by those residing there http://www.hrw.org/world-report-2012/world-report-2012-pakistan
On 22nd May, Zeeshan Haider reported that “Islamist politicians and clerics have launched an “apolitical” bloc aimed at stemming the growing tide of sectarian violence in the country. It is hoped that this will address Sunni, Shia divisions though critics say that it has little chance of success http://www.thenational.ae/news/world/south-asia/pakistan-islamists-launch-reconciliation-commission-to-stem-sectarian-violence
Some readers will be doubt be asking themselves why should I be concerned with the disappearance of someone to whom I have no connection, a stranger from a different culture in a foreign country. The answer to that is firstly I am responding on a human basis, respect for the life of another. Secondly a year ago, my colleague Pakistani investigative journalist Saleem Shahzad was kidnapped and tortured to death in Pakistan. To date, no-one has been held to account for his murder. I was reminded again this week of why I admired him so much when a contact sent me an old article that Saleem had actually written on Naveed Butt in 2005 http://www.atimes.com/atimes/South_Asia/GF24Df02.html Saleem was as always independent, fair and factual, did not shy away from difficult questions and reported all sides of a debate. I have always argued that reporting on an issue does not necessarily equate to supporting that issue but that it often helps the reader to be aware of the bigger picture, hear all sides and come to their own conclusions… be informative not prescriptive.
I note that the majority of mainstream press have been surprisingly silent on this issue…
On the HuT site Muslims argue that:-
Consider that RasulAllah SAW forbade the harming of Muslims in any way, including the torture, for any reason, no matter how great the crime.
بِحَسْبِ امْرِئٍ مِنْ الشَّرِّ أَنْ يحقر أَخَاهُ الْمُسْلِمَ، كُلُّ الْمُسْلِمِ عَلَى الْمُسْلِمِ حَرَامٌ دَمُهُ وَمَالُهُ وَ عِرْضُهُ
“It is evil enough for a man to hold his brother Muslim in contempt. The whole of a Muslim for another Muslim is inviolable: his blood, his honour, and his property.” (Muslim)
إِنَّ اللَّهَ يُعَذِّبُ الَّذِينَ يُعَذِّبُونَ النَّاسَ فِي الدُّنْيَا
As a human rights activist, I also recall the words of Pastor Niemoller who lived through the horrors of the 2nd World War…
First they came for the communists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a communist.
Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a Jew.
Then they came for me
and there was no one left to speak out for me.
So again I ask the question… and call upon all those who uphold human rights to stand up and ask the question,
WHERE IS NAVEED BUTT?
Carol Grayson is an independent UK researcher/writer/campaigner on global health/human rights awarded ESRC Michael Young Prize 2009 and executive producer of Oscar nominated documentary Incident in New Baghdad http://www.incidentinnewbaghdad.com/