The Lahore High Court (LHC) on Friday fixed September 6 to resume the hearing of a plea seeking the recovery of anchorperson Imran Riaz Khan, whose whereabouts remain unknown since his arrest on May 11.

LHC Chief Justice Muhammad Ameer Bhatti will preside over the hearing of the petition filed by the missing journalist’s father, according to a cause list issued by the court.

Riaz was arrested at the Sialkot airport on May 11 — two days after violent protests broke out across the country following PTI Chairman Imran Khan’s arrest — and taken to the Cantt police station. He was among a number of journalists who were taken into custody following the protests. He was later shifted to the Sialkot prison.

Subsequently, a first information report (FIR) pertaining to the matter was registered with Sialkot 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 Riaz, invoking Section 365 (kidnapping or abducting with intent secretly and wrongfully to confine person) of the Pakistan Penal Code.

In the May 19 hearing, the anchorperson’s father had become teary-eyed in the LHC, pleading for mercy, as the whereabouts of his son remained unknown. The next day, the LHC chief justice had ordered the police to recover and present the anchorperson by May 22.

On that date, the LHC had directed the ministries of interior and defence to “discharge their constitutional duties to effect the recovery” of the anchorperson after Punjab Inspector General (IG) Dr Usman Anwar revealed that there was no trace of the journalist at any police department across the country.

The LHC was subsequently informed that both the Inter-Services Intelligence and the Military Intelligence had said the anchorperson was not in their custody. On May 26, the high court had directed “all the agencies” to work together to find the anchorperson and produce him in the court by May 30.

When that date arrived, IG Anwar told the LHC that phone numbers which had been traced back to Afghanistan were involved in the case.

The anchorperson’s lawyer contended in the June 6 hearing that their patience was “wearing thin” even as the Punjab government had informed the high court that efforts to find the journalist were under way.

During the July 5 hearing, the LHC had established a deadline of July 25 for the police to locate the missing journalist. However, no hearing could be held on the designated date due to the bench’s unavailability.

In that particular hearing, Brigadier (retd) Falak Naz, representing the Ministry of Defence, had informed the court that, “We are working on tracing locations and other issues. We are trying to recover Imran Riaz as soon as possible.”

For his part, Riaz’s lawyer Mian Ashfaq Ali had said, “All the institutions are working to find Imran Riaz and we are hopeful that he will soon be recovered.”

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