Punjab Inspector General Dr Usman Anwar on Tuesday told the Lahore High Court (LHC) that phone numbers which had been traced back to Afghanistan were involved in the case of anchorperson Imran Riaz Khan, whose whereabouts remain unknown since his arrest on May 11.
He made the remarks as the court resumed hearing a plea seeking to find the anchorperson, who was among the individuals apprehended in the wake of protests that erupted in the country after the arrest of PTI chairman Imran Khan.
Later, his lawyer told Dawn.com that a writ petition was filed on May 12 over the anchorperson’s arrest and the LHC directed the attorney general to present him before the court the same day. But, after its orders were not followed, Sialkot police were given a 48-hour deadline to find Imran.
A first information report (FIR) pertaining to the matter was registered with Civil Lines police on May 16 on the complaint of the anchorperson’s father, Muhammad Riaz.
The FIR was registered against “unidentified persons” and police officials for allegedly kidnapping Imran, invoking Section 365 (kidnapping or abducting with intent secretly and wrongfully to confine person) of the Pakistan Penal Code.
At the previous hearing, the LHC had directed “all the agencies” to work together to find Imran and produce him before the court on May 30 (today).
The order had come after Lahore police Deputy Inspector General (Investigation) Kamran Adil told the court that both the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and the Military Intelligence (MI) had said that the anchorperson was not in their custody.
Lahore High Court Chief Justice Muhammad Ameer Bhatti presided over today’s hearing which was also attended by the Punjab police chief. Imran’s counsel Mian Ali Ashfaq was also present.
At the outset of the hearing, the chief justice asked the authorities to provide an explanation for why Imran was still a “missing person”. He inquired whether the interior or defence ministries had submitted any reports in this regard.
“We did not state in our order that Imran Riaz is in the agencies’ custody. We emphasised that agencies should provide assistance in locating him,” Justice Bhatti remarked.
A representative from the Ministry of Defence told the court that they had been unable to ascertain the journalist’s whereabouts thus far.
Meanwhile, the Punjab IG said that geo-fencing had been conducted, but no relevant information was obtained. “The legal team and the family of the missing anchorperson were also met as per the court’s instructions,” IG Anwar said.
He further said that the provincial police had also contacted the the Federal Investigation Agency in connection with the case.
“Certain foreign [phone] numbers were used in this case. The numbers used were traced back to Afghanistan. We do not have the ability to trace Afghan [phone] numbers,” he said.
The IG said that he wanted to present the details and the transcripts of the phone numbers in question to the judge’s chamber. “I can submit the details if the court permits,” he said.
Subsequently, the LHC CJ directed the Punjab IG to appear in his chambers and adjourned the hearing.
Meanwhile, the anchorperson’s counsel said that his client had still not been found. “Others are caught within two days but Imran Riaz has not yet been located,” he said.
Justice Bhatti then remarked that it was easier to apprehend individuals who were within the country.
“That means the Punjab IG has convinced you that Imran Riaz Khan has left for Afghanistan,” the counsel said.
Later in the day, the Punjab IG, in accordance with the directives issued by the court, briefed the LHC CJ in his chambers at 1:30pm.