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Family of Pakistani activist fears for his safety

Kareem Khan was picked up by the security forces from his home in Rawalpindi on February 5, according to his legal team, just days before he was due to testify before the European parliament.

ISLAMABAD // The family of a kidnapped Pakistani anti-drone campaigner spoke on Tuesday of their fears for his safety, as his lawyer accused the government of wanting to make an example of him.

Kareem Khan was picked up by the security forces from his home in Rawalpindi on February 5, according to his legal team, just days before he was due to testify before the European parliament.

The freelance journalist was also fighting a legal case in which he had named both the CIA’s former station chief and the government of Pakistan for their roles in the US drone programme in the country’s tribal areas.

Mr Khan’s brother-in-law Dil Bar Jan, who lodged a police report over the disappearance, said the family was very worried about what would happen to him.

“We haven’t done anything that is anti-state, nor do any of us have bad intentions towards anyone,” he said.

“We’re from an educated family, we’re all government employees, I myself am a teacher. We can’t think of doing something wrong.”

A court has asked police to produce Mr Khan, who is in his fifties, on Wednesday. His lawyer Shahzad Akbar said he was pinning his hopes on public pressure to force the government to release him.

“This is a completely illegal disappearance, which means some kind of pressure is being applied through his disappearance to the other drone victims,” Mr Akbar said.

The lawyer said he was becoming increasingly concerned for Mr Khan, whose son and brother were killed in a US drone strike in 2009.

“Normally if someone is picked up they are held a few days and they come back, so every passing moment makes it less likely,” he said.

Mr Khan’s 18-year-old-son and brother were killed when a drone missile struck a gathering in North Waziristan on December 31 2009.

According to an AFP tally, 2,155 people have been killed in drone attacks since August 2008, with critics charging that the strikes cause many civilian casualties.

Officially, Pakistan condemns the CIA’s drone campaign targeting Taliban and Al Qaeda militants in the country’s tribal areas as counterproductive and a violation of sovereignty.

But according to numerous leaked documents it has in the past privately condoned their use.

The case brought by Mr Khan could therefore embarrass the Pakistani government as well as the security establishment.

* Agence France-Presse