The Lahore High Court (LHC) on Thursday ordered Punjab Inspector General Dr Usman Anwar to apprise it of progress on the recovery of anchorperson Imran Riaz Khan by 12pm tomorrow (Friday).
After he was arrested on May 11 from the Sialkot airport, Riaz’s whereabouts have remained unknown for a week now. He was among those taken into custody following the violent protests that broke out in the aftermath of PTI Chairman Imran Khan’s arrest.
Following his arrest, the LHC had ordered for Riaz to be presented in court but after its orders were not followed, the Sialkot police on Monday was given a 48-hour deadline to recover him.
The next day, the Civil Lines police had, on his father Muhammad Riaz’s complaint, filed a first information report against “unidentified persons” and police officials for kidnapping Riaz.
The FIR — a copy of which is available with Dawn.com — invokes Section 365 (kidnapping or abducting with intent secretly and wrongfully to confine person) of the Pakistan Penal Code.
A single-judge bench comprising Chief Justice Muhammad Ameer Bhatti heard the case today while Advocate Azhar Siddique appeared as Riaz’s counsel.
Expressing his dissatisfaction over the progress made by police, the justice adjourned the hearing till 12pm tomorrow.
At the outset of the hearing, the judge reprimanded Sialkot District Police Officer (DPO) Mohammad Hasan Iqbal, saying: “The police have done nothing till now. You only said [to the police] to ‘go and enjoy’. You have [merely] appointed a sub-inspector.
“You had told the court here that ’I would review everything, will look over the investigation. To do this, you had asked for 48 hours. [But] the police is saying that we cannot do anything,” Justice Bhatti further said.
“The police wrote letters to the agencies and dozed off after going home. A high-profile case’s investigations were handed over to a sub-inspector since you are not interested in this case.”
To this, the DPO said that the police were making their “best efforts” but Justice Bhatti countered, “I am not satisfied with your performance.”
Riaz’s lawyer told the court that no progress was made to make the recovery and the police had simply given false hopes.
“A person is missing for the past six days. What are our people (authorities) doing? His life is in danger. A person was picked up. Who is responsible for this?” the LHC judge remarked.
“The police tells us that they do not have anything within their powers. If it is not within your powers, then we can ask some other agency,” he added.
To this, the DPO said, “We have said the same thing that if he is here, then he must be brought and present in front of the court.”
Justice Bhatti observed, “If Imran Riaz has done anything wrong, then you may file a case. We will not stop you (police).” The DPO then apprised the court that it had formed a special team on the matter.
Meanwhile, Riaz’s lawyer requested the court to summon the Punjab IG and a “responsible officer” of an intelligence agency for “assistance” with the case.
The LHC chief justice then told the state attorney, “You can write to the government to constitute a JIT (joint investigation team). Why should we call an agency? What do we have to do with them? This is the government’s duty — you may coordinate with them.
The LHC subsequently summoned the Punjab IG, provincial home secretary and additional chief secretary within two hours.
After the summoned parties appeared in the court, Justice Bhatti addressed Punjab IG Dr Anwar. “IG sahib, what is this matter?”
“We will have to work on this matter,” the police chief replied.
“[Riaz’s] car did not come on the motorway. I have spoken to the ISI (Inter-Services Intelligence) and the IB (Intelligence Bureau) — kindly allow some time,” he said.
“We are looking at the matter in a scientific manner. We can constitute a special team. I have talked to the sector commander. If needed, I will also meet him again.”
Here, Riaz’s counsel lamented, “Did Imran Riaz disappear from the face of the earth or vanish into thin air? It is the police’s duty to recover him (Riaz). It’s not as if they are doing us a favour.”
Justice Bhatti then remarked, “These are the only agencies at our disposal to whom we can ask to take others onboard and recover the person.”
The Punjab IG then informed the court that the ISI was assisting the police on the matter. The LHC then directed the IG to submit the progress made on the case by 12pm tomorrow (Friday) and adjourned the hearing.