TV anchor Imran Riaz Khan ‘safe at home’ after being missing for over 4 months

Published September 25, 2023
Anchorperson Imran Riaz Khan with his lawyer Mian Ashfaq after release on Monday. — photo courtesy Mian Ashfaq
Anchorperson Imran Riaz Khan with his lawyer Mian Ashfaq after release on Monday. — photo courtesy Mian Ashfaq

Anchorperson Imran Riaz Khan — who had been missing for more than four months — is now “safe at home”, Punjab Inspector General (IG) Dr Usman Anwar confirmed to Dawn.com on Monday.

Sialkot District Police Officer (DPO) Hassan Iqbal and Riaz’s lawyer, Mian Ali Ashfaq, also confirmed the development to Dawn.com.

Riaz — a YouTuber and television anchor — was arrested 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. On May 15, a law officer told the Lahore High Court (LHC) that the anchorperson was released from jail after taking an undertaking in writing.

On September 20, the LHC had given the Punjab police chief a “last opportunity” to recover Riaz by September 26 (tomorrow). During the hearing, LHC Chief Justice Muhammad Ameer Bhatti had stated that his patience was “running out”.

In a post on social media platform X (formerly Twitter) during the early hours of Monday, the Sialkot police said, “Journalist/anchor Mr Imran Riaz Khan has been safely recovered. He is now with his family.”

Separately, his lawyer Ashfaq, said in a post on X, “By God’s special blessing, grace, and mercy, I have brought back my prince.

“It took a lot of time due to the mountain of difficulties, the last limit of understanding of the matter, a weak judiciary, and the current ineffective public constitution and legal helplessness,” he said.

In another post on X in the afternoon, Ashfaq shared a photo with Riaz, the latter’s first since his disappearance.

‘Weak, not in the best of health’

Journalist Wajahat S Khan said that he had spoken to Riaz’s family, adding that the anchorperson was “weak and not in the best of health but he’s back”.

PTI leader Hammad Azhar said that the entire nation was rejoicing over Riaz’s return.

Lawyer Khadija Siddiqi termed the development a “positive sign”.

“Latest modus operandi of brazenly silencing voices of dissent seems to have failed miserably! Citizens of Pakistan must not be antagonised by our own state!” she said.

The PTI, meanwhile, called for the release of all political prisoners under “illegal incarceration”. “Law and sense must prevail,” the party said.

PTI leader Asad Qaiser termed his return a “good move” and demanded that other PTI leaders also be produced before courts so they “could decide what their crime was”.

Former senator Advocate Babar Awan said the “ordeal of Imran Riaz, his family, friends and the citizens of Pakistan” had ended.

Timeline

Imran Riaz — a YouTuber and television anchor — was arrested 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. On May 15, a law officer had told the LHC that the anchorperson was released from jail after taking an undertaking in writing. His whereabouts however remained unknown.

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 had also filed a plea in the LHC for his recovery.

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 IG 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 had told the LHC that phone numbers that had been traced back to Afghanistan were involved in the case.

The anchorperson’s lawyer had 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 underway.

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.”

On September 6, IG Anwar had told LHC that the police would deliver “good news” in the next few days, following which he was granted time till September 13.

However, failing to deliver any major “good news”, the IG on September 13 had assured the court that the probe was “going in the right direction”.

On September 20, the LHC had given the Punjab police chief a “last opportunity” to recover Riaz by September 26, adjourning the proceedings in a petition demanding his recovery till then.

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