Punjab Inspector General (IG) Dr Usman Anwar on Wednesday told a court hearing a plea to locate anchorperson Imran Riaz that police would deliver “good news” in the next few days, following which his request for more time to find the journalist was accepted.

Riaz’s whereabouts remain unknown since his arrest at the Sialkot airport on May 11 — two days after violent protests broke out across the country following PTI Chairman Imran Khan’s arrest on May 9. He was last known to be taken to Cantt police station after his arrest and later to the Sialkot prison.

Riaz was among a number of journalists who were taken into custody following the May 9 protests.

Subsequently, a first information report (FIR) of Riaz’s alleged abduction 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.

The journalist’s father also filed a plea in the Lahore High Court for his recovery.

LHC Chief Justice Muhammad Ameer Bhatti took up the plea today and was informed by the Punjab IG that “positive progress” had been made in the case.

“We will give good news in the next 10 to 15 days,” he said, urging the court to give them more time to find Riaz.

“You want more time?” asked Justice Bhatti.

“Give us 10 more days, and we will deliver good news,” replied IG Anwar.

At that, the judge remarked, “There should be some progress as well.”

The court eventually granted police time till September 13 to find Riaz.

The LHC also requested the request by the petitioner’s lawyer for a meeting with the Punjab IG and directed the official to meet Riaz’s father and legal team at 5pm today.

Previous proceedings

During a May 19 hearing of the case, 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, retired Brigadier Falak Naz, representing the Ministry of Defence, had informed the court: “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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