x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Dentist's family baffled by his arrest in RAK

The Pakistani Embassy confirms that Dr Ayyaz Ali Khan is being held, but requests for access to him are not being granted.

Ayyaz Ali Khan was arrested in RAK with six others.
Ayyaz Ali Khan was arrested in RAK with six others.

The family of Ayyaz Ali Khan, the Pakistani dentist arrested in Ras al Khaimah on April 5, say they have had no contact with him since his detention, nor have they been told why he is being held. According to Dr Khan's sister, they have not even received official confirmation from UAE authorities of his whereabouts.

"The only information is what we are getting from newspapers," said Mahnaz Nasir, speaking from Lahore. "We have heard nothing." The Pakistani Embassy in Abu Dhabi confirmed last month that 58-year-old Dr Khan was being held. Mrs Nasir said she had no idea why he had been arrested. "I have crashed my mind up and down and there is nothing that I can think of. Maybe he was picked up with the wrong people and it's a case of mistaken identity. There is just nothing bad you could think of him."

For three years, Dr Khan has travelled between his family home in Lahore and Ras al Khaimah, where he lives in an accommodation provided by the emirate's College of Dental Science. In Lahore, he lives with his wife, Shireen, and their two children, Umar and Amina. Umar, his 21-year-old son, is studying engineering and Amina, 18, is working towards her A-levels. Dr Khan's mother, Naseem, who is in her seventies, also lives with them. Shehnaz Saeed, his youngest sister, is a housewife living in Gujarat.

Dr Khan is also the principal of the Islamic International Dental College, which is affiliated to the Riphah International University in Pakistan. He left Pakistan alone on March 31. On April 5, he was arrested in RAK with six others. Two were released that day, the other five are still in custody. Requests by the Pakistani Embassy and foreign ministry for access to Dr Khan have not been granted.

"The situation is still the same," said a source at the embassy. "We have had a couple of meetings but have not been given access." Dr Khan's wife has contemplated flying to the UAE to try to find her husband, but for now has to content herself with regular phone calls to the UAE for information. "People are telling us different things," she said. "We don't know if we should fly to the UAE at this point. I've not spoken to him once - the last time was on April 3." Then, she said, "everything was fine. My sister-in-law spoke to him on April 4".

Since Dr Khan's father died in 1994, he has been the family's main source of support. "When my father passed, he [Dr Khan] said 'Why are you upset? I am still here for you'. And he has been," said Mrs Nasir, a teacher. A number of Dr Khan's students in Lahore, along with family members and friends, held press conferences and peaceful demonstrations in Pakistan last month to raise awareness of his plight.

"This is just so out of the blue," said Mrs Nasir. "We do not know what to do. This was beyond our imagination. "Our family is highly educated. Protesting is not our cup of tea. He needs help." @Email:asafdar@thenational.ae