Missing anchorperson

Published September 19, 2023

TV PERSONALITY Imran Riaz remains missing, his whereabouts unknown. The prominent anchorperson — followed by millions on YouTube — was arrested on May 11 by Punjab police under the Maintenance of Public Order rules. The police say they released him when the detention order against Mr Riaz was withdrawn, but that he was ‘abducted’ by unidentified persons shortly thereafter.

Mr Riaz’s family, on the other hand, believes the police were complicit in the anchor’s kidnapping, and it is commonly believed that he is in the custody of powerful forces within the state. Since officially, the state has disavowed any responsibility for Mr Riaz, there has been no information about the conditions he has been kept in, whether he is healthy and in good physical condition, or whether he is even alive.

Indeed, his case now seems doomed to becoming a footnote in the long list of excesses perpetrated by the state to keep dissident voices in check. To render someone ‘missing’ is perhaps the worst cruelty a state can perpetrate. It condemns entire families to an unending nightmare of not knowing where their loved ones are, and in what state. Pakistan has been one of the worst offenders on this count.

Mr Riaz is not, after all, the only Pakistani whose whereabouts are currently unknown. However, that does not make his case any less condemnable. A petition seeking his recovery is slated to be taken up again by the Lahore High Court this week.

In the last hearing, the Punjab IG had assured the court that the police investigation was “going in the right direction”. A week earlier, he had assured the court that there was “positive progress” in the case. It is disappointing that the Punjab IG has been allowed to get away with these empty excuses for so long.

Every day this case is prolonged is an injustice to Mr Riaz and his worried family. The court must now ensure results.

Published in Dawn, September 19th, 2023

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