July 20, 2018 / 11:54 AM / a year ago

Missing Pakistani peace activist returns home, friends say

LAHORE, Pakistan (Reuters) - A peace activist who disappeared last year after criticising Pakistan’s military has returned to his home in the eastern province of Punjab, his friends said on Friday.

FILE PHOTO: Demonstrators hold placards calling for the release of Raza Mehmood Khan, a member of Aghaz-i-Dosti (Start of Friendship), a group that works on peace building between Pakistan and India, during a protest in Lahore, Pakistan December 11, 2017. REUTERS/Mohsin Raza/File Photo

Liberals have long criticised what they see as the military’s use of militant factions to further political and security objectives. The army denies sponsoring such factions but regards security policy as its responsibility.

Raza Mehmood Khan, 40, a member of the Aghaz-i-Dosti (Start of Friendship) group that works to build peace with arch-rival India, had not been heard from since Dec.2.

His family had filed a writ of habeas corpus in a court in the eastern city of Lahore in the belief that he had been unlawfully detained by unknown authorities.

But on Friday, one of his friends, Ali Aftab Saeed, said Khan had returned.

“Raza is back,” Saeed said. “That’s the only thing I know.”

Another friend, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Khan had returned to the city of Kasur in Punjab on Wednesday.

The police declined to comment.

On the day of his disappearance, Khan had spoken at a forum on militancy and posted comments on Facebook critical of the military and its suspected link to some Islamist hardliners.

Four activists critical of the army and its attitude towards militant groups went missing last year but reappeared after about a month. Two later said Pakistani military intelligence agents abducted and tortured them.

The military denied the accusations.

Reporting by Mubasher Bukhari; Writing by Idrees Ali; Editing by Clarence Fernandez

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