LAHORE: Anchor­per­son Imran Riaz Khan, who “went missing” over four months ago, finally returned home “safely” on Monday morning.

Punjab police IG Usman Anwar and Sialkot DPO Hassan Iqbal confirmed that the missing anchorperson was back home.

However, his mysterious disappearance and surprise appearance has shocked many, leaving questions as to where he was during the time that he had been ‘missing’.

Talking to Dawn, DPO Iqbal said Sialkot police received a call that the anchorperson was present in Civil Hospital. The SHO concerned rushed to the site and informed his senior officers about Imran Riaz’s presence. Later, pol­ice transported him safely to his residence in Lahore.

He said Imran Riaz had been taken into the custody on May 11 under 16 MPO from the premises of Sialkot airport when he was about to leave Pakistan for Muscat, two days after PTI activists turned violent following the arrest of party chairman Imran Khan.

The anchorperson was off-loaded by airline.

He said action was initiated against him over his Twitter account and social media profile and his ‘statements’ regarding the PTI agitations.

The DPO said the ancho­r­person was sent to the Sialkot jail. Mean­while, the anchorperson submitted a request to the Sialkot deputy commissioner asking him to withdraw the detention order and submitting an undertaking that he would respect the laws. The DC withdrew the detention order next day and Imran Riaz was released.

The DPO said it was on record that the anchorperson himself sat in the car that had reached there to receive him and nobody was aware of his next destination. Footage also surfaced later, Mr Iqbal said, adding that Imran Riaz was handed over to his father early on Monday.

In a post on ‘X’ on Monday morning, the Sialkot police said, “Journalist/anchor Mr Imran Riaz Khan has been safely recovered. He is now with his family.”

Later, Imran Riaz’s lawyer Mian Ali Ashfaq confirmed the development. In a post on ‘X’, he said: “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.”

In another post, Mr Ashfaq shared a photo with Imran Riaz, the latter’s first since his disappearance showing him in poor health condition.

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 in her post on ‘X’.

Imran Riaz’s father Mohammad Riaz lodged a case against his abduction against unknown persons on May 16, invoking Section 365 (kidnapping or abducting with intent secretly and wrongfully to confine person) of the Pakistan Penal Code.

Separately, he had also moved the Lahore High Court (LHC) for his son’s safe recovery.

During a May 19 hearing of the case, he became teary-eyed in the LHC, pleading for mercy as the whereabouts of his son remained unknown.

The next day, LHC Chief Justice Muhammad Ameer Bhatti 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 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 agencies” to work together to find the anchorperson and produce him before the court by May 30.

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

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

On Sept 20, the LHC chief justice had given the Punjab police chief a “last opportunity” to recover Imran Riaz by Sept 26.

During the hearing, the chief justice had stated that his patience was “running out”.

Published in Dawn, September 26th, 2023

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