Pakistan journalist Imran Riaz Khan, missing since police crackdown on ex-PM Imran Khan, 'returns home'
Imran Riaz Khan, with over three million followers on YouTube, was arrested two days after violence broke out in Pakistan following Imran Khan’s arrest in May.
Imran Riaz Khan, a renowned Pakistani journalist and political commentator who had been missing for more than four months, has been found and “is now with his family”, Dawn reported citing the Sialkot Police on Monday morning.
“Journalist/anchor Mr Imran Riaz Khan has been safely recovered. He is now with his family,” the Sialkot Police said in a post on X (formerly Twitter).
The controversial 47-year-old TV anchor and commentator, with more than three million followers on YouTube, was reportedly arrested two days after violent protests broke out across the country following Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chairman Imran Khan’s arrest on May 9.
Dawn reported that Riaz Khan 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 told the Lahore High Court (LHC) that the journalist was released from jail after taking an undertaking in writing. His whereabouts remained unknown.
Imran Riaz Khan's abduction complaint
On May 16, Riaz Khan's father, Muhammad Riaz, lodged an FIR of the journalist's alleged abduction with Sialkot Civil Lines Police.
Punjab Inspector General Usman Anwar and Sialkot District Police Officer Hassan Iqbal confirmed to Dawn that Imram was now “safe at home”.
“By God’s special blessing, grace and mercy, I have brought back my prince," Riaz Khan’s lawyer, Mian Ali Ashfaq also confirmed on social media.
“It took a lot of time due to the pile of difficulties, the last limit of understanding of the matter, weak judiciary and the current ineffective public constitution and legal helplessness,” he said.
The lawyer added, “Despite the unspeakable circumstances, Allah Almighty showed us this best day. Only limitless gratitude right now.”
Pakistan has long been an unsafe country for journalists. In recent years, Pakistani activists and journalists have increasingly come under attack by the government and the security establishment.
Journalist Arshad Sharif, who was critical of the Pakistan Army, was killed in Kenya last October as he fled the country citing threats to his life from the security agencies.
Imran Riaz Khan detained and then went missing
Riaz Khan was detained under the charges of inciting people to violence through his reporting. Imran was taken into custody under then-Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif's coalition government.
He was arrested on May 11. This came two days after violence erupted in Pakistan when Imran Khan was arrested in the Toshakhana case. Riaz Khan was allegedly a vocal supporter of Imran Khan and the military.
Sharif dissolved the parliament and his government in August when its mandated term ended, and a caretaker administration subsequently took charge to oversee elections in Pakistan.
Reporters Without Borders, known globally by its French acronym RSF, claimed in late May that it had received information from "confidential diplomatic sources" that Riaz Khan was tortured and "may even have died in detention."
Human rights groups have since condemned it as an "enforced disappearance."
(With inputs from agencies)