Anchorperson Imran Riaz handed over to police in fraud case

Published June 12, 2024
Anchorperson Imran Riaz was arrested at the Lahore airport early Wednesday morning while he was departing for Saudi Arabia for Haj. — DawnNewsTV
Anchorperson Imran Riaz was arrested at the Lahore airport early Wednesday morning while he was departing for Saudi Arabia for Haj. — DawnNewsTV

A Lahore district court on Wednesday remanded anchorperson Imran Riaz, who was arrested last night, in police custody for one day in a fraud case.

Riaz was taken into custody at the Allama Iqbal International Airport late Tuesday night while he was departing for Saudi Arabia for Haj. The visuals of the arrest, which showed the journalist clad in an ihram, went viral on social media.

He was later presented before Judicial Magistrate Muhammad Kamran Zafar by the Nishtar Town police. According to the first information report (FIR), a copy of which is available with Dawn.com, Riaz has been accused of abuse of trust. It invoked Section 406 (Punishment for criminal breach of trust) of the Pakistan Penal Code.

During the hearing today, the police sought seven-day physical remand of Riaz. The prosecutor stated that the anchorperson had borrowed Rs0.25 billion from the complainant but he never returned the money.

Meanwhile, Riaz’s lawyer, Mian Ashfaq, alleged that the case against his client was fake. “The complainant was an agent at Maryam Nawaz’s polling station,” he contended.

After hearing the arguments from both sides, the judge reserved the verdict. Later, he granted police one-day physical remand of Riaz.

Petitions filed in LHC

Earlier in the day, Riaz’s lawyer Azhar Siddique filed a petition in the Lahore High Court (LHC) seeking details of the first information report (FIR) under which the anchorperson was arrested.

The petition, a copy of which is available with Dawn.com, stated that Riaz was to depart for Saudi Arabia for Haj from Lahore when “many civil-dresses officers from various authorities came and arrested him without providing any details” and “took him to an undisclosed location”.

“No information has surfaced as to which FIR was used in order to apprehend the Applicant on the eve of 11.06.2024, therefore, it is the need of the day that the respondents be summoned by this court and they inform this court as to which FIRs have now been registered, of course, frivolously, against the applicant due to which he was illegally and arbitrarily arrested,” it said.

It added that Riaz’s name was removed from the Exit Control List on June 11.

The plea prayed that the petition be accepted and the police, Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), interior secretary and the Anti-Corruption Establishment be directed to place on record details of the FIR under which the anchorperson was arrested.

Separately, Riaz’s brother filed another petition in the LHC demanding that the anchorperson be immediately released from “illegal and improper custody” and be produced in court. It has been fixed for hearing before Justice Amjad Rafique.

The plea, seen by Dawn.com, named the Punjab inspector general, Lahore capital city police officer, Cantt superintendent of police, FIA director and cyber crime wing director as respondents in the case.

It stated that Riaz was “unlawfully and illegally” stopped from travelling abroad and was being kept under “illegal and unlawful” detention.

PTI condemns arrest, calls for immediate release

Meanwhile, the PTI termed Riaz’s arrest “absolutely condemnable” and called for his release.

“[It] once again represents the complete destruction of moral values of Pakistan in the last two years,” the party said in a post on X. “Have some sense, your actions hurt Pakistan only,” it added.

“Is going to Haj now considered a crime in Pakistan?” the Imran Khan-led party asked in another post.

PTI leader Sher Afzal Marwat said he was at a loss of words and strongly condemned the arrest.

Arrest and rearrest

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 Lahore High Court 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 the Punjab inspector general 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, the Punjab IG 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, the Punjab IG 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.

He was finally released on September 25, after more than four months of “being missing”.

Earlier this year, Riaz was arrested in a graft case about the contract of Dhrabi Lake in Chakwal and was later granted bail by a special court. However, the anchorperson was rearrested in another case pertaining to violence outside PTI founder Imran Khan’s Zaman Park residence.

On March 10, an anti-terrorism court had granted him post-arrest bail against surety bonds worth Rs200,000.

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