A reporter working for Geo News who went missing in Karachi on Friday has returned home, his brother confirmed to Dawn on Saturday evening.
Ali Imran Syed reached his mother's residence in the city and reportedly established contact with his wife. He has returned safely and has not been physically harmed, he told her, according to the media outlet.
Imran had left his house in Block 8-A of Gulistan-i-Jauhar on Friday between 7pm and 8pm to purchase some biscuits from a nearby bakery but did not return home, according to the first information report (FIR) of the incident registered on the complaint of his brother, Syed Talib Abbas Rizvi.
A Geo.tv report said the journalist had told his family he would be back home in half an hour. It quoted his wife as saying that his car was parked outside the house and he had left his mobile phone at home.
The FIR was lodged at the Sachal police station under Sections 365 (kidnapping or abducting with intent secretly and wrongfully to confine person) and 34 (common intention) of the Pakistan Penal Code, with Rizvi stating that his younger brother was kidnapped by unidentified persons for some unknown reasons.
The Geo News administration stated that the Karachi police chief and DIG East had been informed about Imran's disappearance, the publication said, adding that the family had also submitted a report to Sachal police station.
Meanwhile, Sindh government spokesperson Murtaza Wahab said Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah had taken notice of the incident and spoken to the IG. "The matter is being investigated," he said.
Earlier, acting Karachi police chief Arif Hanif along with the SSP Anti-Violent Crime Cell visited the reporter's residence and assured his family that all possible resources would be utilised for his recovery. He informed the family that a case of disappearance had been registered against unknown persons. The acting police chief also visited the place from where the reporter had gone missing, according to a police spokesperson.
Hanif met with the reporter’s family after Chief Minister Shah at an emergency meeting directed police, Rangers and other agencies to ensure Imran's immediate recovery. He observed that such incidents were against the freedoms of expression and press and international media and human rights organisations had also taken their notice, according to a spokesperson for Shah.
On the call of the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists, journalists held a demonstration outside the Karachi Press Club (KPC), expressing concerns over the reporter’s disappearance.
Geo News Karachi bureau chief Fahim Siddiqi, KPC president Imtiaz Khan Faran and others said Imran was a "non-controversial" reporter and his last story before his disappearance was related to the arrest of PML-N leader retired Capt Mohammad Safdar from a Karachi hotel whose CCTV footage was broadcast by the channel. Siddiqi told media that there was "pressure" on the channel after airing the footage of the incident.
'Attack on freedom of expression'
The reporter's disappearance also garnered attention on social media. The hashtag 'BringBackAliImran' was among the top trends on Twitter on Saturday.
Amnesty International stated that Imran was "feared to have been subjected to an enforced disappearance for his reporting". "The authorities must establish his whereabouts immediately," the human rights group said.
The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan also called for Imran's "immediate release".
PML-N Vice President Maryam Nawaz also condemned the reporter's disappearance.
"I have heard that he has been picked up for allegedly sharing CCTV footage of [Safdar's arrest]. This is unfortunate," she said while speaking to reporters in Lahore.
Addressing the government, she said: "You have earned a lot of flak for breaking down my door, the manner in which you arrested my husband and the way you undermined the Sindh police force.
"Don't earn yourself more criticism by kidnapping people and stopping them from raising their voice for the truth. This is very wrong [and] needs to stop," she said.
Condemning the reporter's disappearance, PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari said the incident was an "attack on the right to freedom of expression".
"Incidents like this create a negative image of the country," he said in a statement, adding that the media was witnessing an unprecedented crackdown during the government of Prime Minister Imran Khan.
Meanwhile, Information Minister Shibli Faraz said he "sincerely hoped and prayed" Imran would reunite with his family and friends soon.
Minister for Human Rights Shireen Mazari said: "No one should 'disappear' in a democracy. We have strong laws to deal with those guilty of a crime."