Anchorperson Imran Riaz Khan was arrested in a separate case on Thursday after a Lahore court discharged him in a case of monetary fraud.

Riaz was taken into custody at the Allama Iqbal International Airport late on 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.

The police had sought his seven-day physical remand in Wednesday’s hearing before the Model Town Court judicial magistrate. The prosecutor had said that the anchorperson had borrowed Rs0.25 billion from the complainant but he never returned the money.

After hearing the arguments from both sides, the judge had reserved the verdict and later granted police Riaz’s one-day physical remand.

Riaz was represented by his lawyers Mian Ashfaq and Advocate Azhar Siddique.

Today, while reading out the reserved verdict, Judicial Magistrate Muhammad Kamran Zafar discharged the anchorperson in the case.

Later, Riaz was arrested outside the court in a separate case concerning interference with the police that was registered at the Sarwar Road police station on the complaint of Airport Security Force Assistant Director Mirza Naseer Ahmad.

The FIR was filed under Sections 147 (rioting), 149 (unlawful assembly), 186 (obstructing public servant in discharge of public functions), 279 (rash driving or riding on a public way), 353 (assault or criminal force to deter public servant from discharge of his duty) and 427 (mischief causing damage amounting to Rs50) of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC).

According to the first information report (FIR), a copy of which is available with Dawn.com, Riaz had forcibly tried to pass a check post and interfered in the matter of the state.

It said that the forced driving by the anchorperson damaged a barrier near the airport.

Arrest and rearrest

Riaz was arrested two days after violent protests broke out across the country following PTI founder Imran Khan’s arrest on May 9, 2023.

He was known to be taken to Cantt police station after his arrest and later to the Sialkot prison. On May 15, 2023, a law officer had told the Lahore High Court (LHC) that the anchorperson was released from jail after taking an undertaking in writing. His whereabouts, however, remained unknown.

Subsequently, an FIR of Riaz’s alleged abduction was registered with Sialkot Civil Lines police on May 16, 2023, 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 PPC Section 365 (kidnapping or abducting with intent secretly and wrongfully to confine person).

The journalist’s father had also filed a plea in the LHC for his recovery.

During a May 19, 2023, 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 last year.

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 last year, the high court had directed “all the agencies” to work together to find the anchorperson and produce him in the court by May 30, 2023.

When that date arrived, the Punjab police chief 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 last year 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 police chief 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 police chief 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 Imran’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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