Ten years on, the enforced disappearance of Naveed Butt

Summary of Case

Naveed Butt, father of 4, was abducted in Lahore, Pakistan, while returning home after collecting his young children from school. It has now been 10 years since his disappearance on 11 May 2012.

It is suspected Naveed is being held incommunicado by the Pakistani authorities, though they continue to deny holding him or being aware of his whereabouts.


Naveed Butt was an electrical engineer, he studied in the US at the University of Illinois and returned to Pakistan after working in Chicago for some time. He was the official spokesperson of Hizb ut Tahrir in Pakistan at the time. He was vocal against injustices and criticised the corruption of Pakistani officials while advocating for an Islamic system and leadership in Pakistan.

Naveed would lead demonstrations in Pakistan against former President Parvez Musharraf’s support for US President George Bush’s War on Terror in 2001. In 2004 he held a press conference against the support for the US invasion of Iraq.

Naveed Butt, with two of his children.

Naveed’s wife, also a qualified lawyer, said:

“My husband Naveed Butt is a very soft hearted and loving person. He is the beloved of his whole family. His sisters and brother are devastated due to his prolonged absence. We have three sons and one daughter. Our youngest son was only two years old at the time of his abduction. Today when he asks questions about his father, I say to him that he is detained for the crime of advocating for Islam and only Allah will free him. My daughter misses her father more than ever and keeps on praying for his release day and night.”1

When his daughter Maryam was just 10 years old, after 4 years of his disappearance she said the following:

“I only want my father to come home. Everyone loves his parents. Sometimes one’s father and mother scold them but mostly they love them. When my father used to go leave for work, I waited for him eagerly. When he returned home I used to run to him and sit in his lap. It has been four years but he has not returned…Whenever I see anyone’s father showing affection to his children, I miss my father.”

Naveed with 2 of his sons

Disappearance and ill treatment

Due to Naveed’s activism and speaking out against injustice in the country, he was constantly under threat from the State. He was arrested multiple times and was in constant danger. In the weeks leading up to his disappearance, Naveed received threatening phone calls from unknown numbers.

Naveed was abducted by suspected State security forces and taken away in a van, which was witnessed by 3 of his children, who were 10, 9 and 6 at the time, his youngest was only 2.

He is allegedly being held by security forces though they refuse to confirm he is in their custody2, or his whereabouts. The status of Naveed’s physical and mental wellbeing is unknown, his family have not heard from him in 10 years and there has been no official confirmation of his condition.

Through unofficial channels the family have been informed that Naveed has been put through harsh interrogations, with one official complaining that Naveed had not given up any information despite being severely tortured.

Practice of enforced disappearance in Pakistan

The practice of enforced disappearnace was widely used in the early days of the War on Terror, men and women were disappeared and renditioned to foreign countries. Pakistan has been no different.

Even as recently as March 2022, under Imran Khan’s leadership, the Commission for Enforced disappearance disclosed that 76 people were reported missing in that month alone3.

Enforced disappearance is when a person is “secretly abducted or imprisoned by a state or political organisation, or by a third party with the authorisation, support, or acquiescence of a state or political organisation, followed by a refusal to acknowledge the person’s fate and whereabouts, with the intent of placing the victim outside the protection of the law.”4

Defence of Human Rights Pakistan has been logging these disappearance cases over the years, and up to December 2021 they have identified over 2800 disappeared person cases5, 1357 of whom are still missing, of those Naveed is one.

Both Amnesty International6 and HRW7 have condemned the use of enforced disappearance and have called on the Pakistani authorities to end this oppressive policy.

Legal challenges

Over the years, Naveed’s wife has continued to fight for the release of her husband and has made multiple applications to various Courts in Pakistan.

An application was made to the Commission for enforced disappearances, who issued a directive for the production of Naveed as a missing person in 2018. However, the government has failed to comply with this order. The family have escalated this case to the Islamabad High Court, who are currently reviewing the case. A follow up hearing will take place on 17 May 2022.

Naveed Butt’s wife said:

“Raising the word of truth is my husband’s only crime. That is why, I demand from the people of power and the rulers to release him immediately. He has already served [10] years in illegal prison for undisclosed crimes. We have run from pillar to post in search of justiceFrom Islamabad High Court to Supreme Court of Pakistan to Lahore High Court. Our case was even heard in the commission for enforced disappearances but despite the repeated orders of the courts, Naveed Butt was never presented in front of a court.”

Call to action

Naveed’s wife told CAGE:

“I appeal to the Pakistani government, army and state agencies to release my husband as he has been punished enough for his crime of speaking truth. Along with him, me and my kids have suffered in his long absence. Release him now as it’s against all norms of humanity and justice.”

Join the Twitter storm 11 May 2022 at 6pm BST – #FreeNaveedButt, https://twitter.com/FreeNaveedButt_ and sign this petition here: Free Naveed Butt

(NOTE: CAGE represents cases of individuals based on the remit of our work. Supporting a case does not mean we agree with the views or actions of the individual. Content published on CAGE may not reflect the official position of our organisation.)