Missing anchorperson Imran Riaz Khan ‘recovered’ after nearly five months

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Anchorperson Imran Riaz Khan, who remained missing for nearly five months, has been recovered and returned his home safely, District Police Officer Sialkot Hassan Iqbal said in a statement on Monday.

The journalist was arrested on May 11 from the Sialkot Airport under 3MPO after the May 9 protests that broke out throughout the country following PTI Chairman Imran Khan’s arrest from Islamabad High Court.

Riaz left in a private car after his release from the district jail on May 12. The Lahore High Court (LHC) was informed on May 15 that the anchorperson was released from jail after taking an undertaking in writing.

After remaining missing for a considerable period of time, the Punjab police chief was given “a last opportunity” by the LHC on September 20 to recover Riaz by September 26.

The lawyer further wrote: “Despite the unspeakable circumstances, Allah Almighty showed us this best day. Only limitless gratitude right now.”

The timeline of Imran Riaz Khan’s case

The YouTuber was taken into police custody after the violent May 9 protests that broke out following the arrest of PTI Chairman Imran Khan.

However, on May 15, the LHC was intimated about his release after an undertaking in writing.

After his whereabouts remained unknown, a first information report (FIR) mentioning the abduction of the anchorperson was registered with Sialkot Civil Lines police on May 16 by his father Muhammad Riaz.

In the FIR, registered against an unidentified person, it was maintained that Riaz was kidnapped by police officials, invoking Section 365 (kidnapping or abducting with intent secretly and wrongfully to confine person) of the Pakistan Penal Code.

His father also filed a plea in the LHC for his recovery.

In a hearing on May 19, his teary-eyed father pleaded for mercy as the crackdown on the violent protesters intensified. On the subsequent day, the chief justice of the high court ordered the police to recover and present the YouTuber before the jury by May 22.

LHC had also instructed the ministries of interior and defence to “discharge their constitutional duties to effect the recovery” of the anchorperson after Punjab IG Anwar revealed that there was no trace of the journalist at any police department across the country.

Later the court was informed that both the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and the Military Intelligence (MI) had said the journalist was not in their custody.

On May 26, the court directed “all the agencies” to collaborate and find Riaz and produce him in the court by May 30.

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

The lawyer of Riaz contended in the June 6 hearing that their patience was “wearing thin” even as the Punjab administration had informed the court that efforts to find the journalist were underway.

On July 5, the LHC set a deadline of July 25 for the police to trace the journalist, but no hearing could be held on the designated date due to the unavailability of the bench.

In that hearing, retired Brigadier Falak Naz, representing the Ministry of Defence, told 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, Punjab IG Usman Anwar told the LHC that the police would deliver “good news” in the next few days, following which he was granted time till September 13.

Nevertheless, 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”.

The court later on September 20, gave the Punjab IG a “last opportunity” to recover Riaz by September 26, adjourning the proceedings in a petition demanding his recovery till then.

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