Anchorperson Imran Riaz Khan, who was missing for almost five months, has been successfully located and safely returned to his home, according to a statement by District Police Officer Sialkot, Hassan Iqbal, on Monday.
The journalist had been detained on May 11 at Sialkot Airport under 3MPO following the nationwide protests on May 9, triggered by the arrest of PTI Chairman Imran Khan from Islamabad High Court.
After his release from the district jail on May 12, Riaz left in a private car. The Lahore High Court (LHC) was informed on May 15 that the anchorperson had been released from jail after providing a written undertaking.
Following an extended period of disappearance, the Lahore High Court gave the Punjab police chief a final opportunity on September 20 to locate Riaz by September 26.
In a post on X (formerly known as Twitter), the Sialkot police announced, “Journalist/anchor Mr. Imran Riaz Khan has been safely recovered and is now reunited with his family.”
Journalist/Anchor Mr.Imran Riaz Khan has been safely recovered. He is now with his family.— Sialkot Police (@DpoSialkot) September 25, 2023
صحافی/اینکر عمران ریاض خان صاحب بازیاب ہو چکے ہیں۔ وہ اپنے گھر پہنچ چکے ہیں@OfficialDPRPP @rpogujranwala @PunjabPoliceCPO @GovtofPunjabPK @GovtofPakistan
In a message posted on X, Riaz’s attorney expressed, “With the extraordinary grace and mercy of God, I have successfully reunited with my client.”
He added, “This achievement was a result of significant challenges, the limits of comprehension in this case, a struggling judiciary, and the current limitations in the public constitution and legal support.”
اللہ کے خاص فضل، کرم و رحمت سے اپنے شہزادے کو پھر لے آیا ھوں-— Mian Ali Ashfaq (@MianAliAshfaq) September 25, 2023
مشکلات کے انبار، معاملہ فہمی کی آخری حد، کمزور عدلیہ و موجودہ غیر مؤثر سر عام آئین و قانونی بے بسی کی وجہ سے بہت زیادہ وقت لگا- 🙏
ناقابل بیان حالات کے باوجود اللہ رب العزت نے یہ بہترین دن دکھایا اس وقت صرف بے پناہ… pic.twitter.com/z96M9pGaPZ
The attorney added, “Despite the indescribable circumstances, we have been granted this auspicious day by the grace of Almighty Allah. Our gratitude knows no bounds at this moment.”
Timeline of Imran Riaz Khan’s Case: The YouTuber was apprehended by the police following the violent protests on May 9, which erupted after the arrest of PTI Chairman Imran Khan.
However, on May 15, the Lahore High Court was informed about his release after he provided a written undertaking.
When his whereabouts remained unknown, his father, Muhammad Riaz, filed a First Information Report (FIR) with the Sialkot Civil Lines police on May 16, alleging the abduction of his son by unidentified individuals. The FIR invoked Section 365 (kidnapping or abducting with intent secretly and wrongfully to confine a person) of the Pakistan Penal Code.
His father also filed a plea in the Lahore High Court for his son’s recovery.
During a hearing on May 19, the emotional father pleaded for mercy as the crackdown on the violent protesters intensified. The following day, the Chief Justice of the High Court ordered the police to locate and present the YouTuber before the court by May 22.
The Lahore High Court also directed the ministries of interior and defense to fulfill their constitutional obligations to recover the anchorperson after Punjab IG Anwar disclosed that there was no trace of the journalist in any police department across the country.
Subsequently, the court was informed that both the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and the Military Intelligence (MI) confirmed that the journalist was not in their custody.
On May 26, the court instructed “all agencies” to collaborate and locate Riaz, presenting him in court by May 30.
On that date, IG Anwar informed the Lahore High Court that phone numbers linked to Afghanistan were involved in the case.
During the June 6 hearing, Riaz’s lawyer expressed growing impatience, even though the Punjab administration assured the court that efforts to locate the journalist were ongoing.
On July 5, the Lahore High Court set a deadline of July 25 for the police to locate the journalist, but a hearing could not be held on the designated date due to the unavailability of the bench.
In that hearing, retired Brigadier Falak Naz, representing the Ministry of Defense, informed the court: “We are working on tracing locations and other issues. We are making every effort to recover Imran Riaz as soon as possible.”
On September 6, Punjab IG Usman Anwar assured the Lahore High Court that the police would deliver “positive news” in the coming days, and he was granted an extension until September 13.
However, failing to provide any significant updates, the IG on September 13 reassured the court that the investigation was “progressing in the right direction.”
On September 20, the court granted the Punjab IG a “final opportunity” to locate Riaz by September 26, postponing the proceedings in the petition demanding his recovery until that date.
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