The Lahore High Court (LHC) on Tuesday deemed ineffective the plea filed for the recovery of television anchor Imran Riaz Khan following his return yesterday after being missing for over four months.

His arrest and disappearance — within days of the May 9 riots — and surprise appearance have shocked many, leaving questions as to where he was during the time that he had been ‘missing’.

Imran Riaz’s father had 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 LHC for his son’s safe recovery. After the court gave the Punjab IG the last chance to find him, the Sialkot Police announced that he was “recovered”.

Today’s hearing

LHC Chief Justice Muhammad Ameer Bhatti conducted the hearing today.

During the hearing, lawyer Barrister Mian Ali Ashfaq contended before the court that the application filed by Riaz’s father Mohammad Riaz had become ineffective after the anchorperson returned home.

The LHC chief justice asked his father if Imran Riaz had been found. In reply to him, Imran Riaz’s father said, “My son has been found and it happened only because of you”.

Justice Bhatti replied, saying, “I am nothing. Honour and dishonour are in the hands of God.”

Additional IG of Punjab police and other officers were also in attendance at the court.

‘Pakistan zindabad’

Speaking to the media outside court later, Imran Riaz’s father expressed his gratitude to everyone who worked for the recovery of his son.

“May God bless you all,” he added. “Pakistan Zindabad.”

Separately, Barrister Ashfaq said he had held a detailed meeting with Riaz last night, adding that his client was in a “weak mental and physical state”. “He has suffered a weight loss of 22kgs”.

He highlighted that they were trying to constitute a medical board of specialised doctors that could evaluate Imran Riaz’s health after conducting necessary medical tests.

“We are trying for the best doctors in the market,” the lawyer said. “We will be able to determine Imran Riaz’s mental and physical health in a better manner after doctors examine him. He is very weak physically.”

Ashfaq urged everyone including journalists to respect the privacy of Imran Riaz and his family.

‘Recovery’

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

He had said Riaz had been taken into 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 from the airline. He had said action was initiated against him over his Twitter account and social media profile and his “statements” regarding the PTI agitations.

The DPO had said the ancho­r­person was sent to the Sialkot jail. Mean­while, the anchorperson had 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 had withdrew the detention order the next day and Riaz was released.

The DPO had 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, Iqbal said, adding that Imran Riaz was handed over to his father early on Monday.

Journey through courts

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

The next day, LHC Chief Justice Bhatti 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 Usman Anwar had 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 had 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 gave the Punjab police chief a “last opportunity” to recover Imran Riaz by Sept 26.

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