Imran Riaz Khan (left) with his lawyer Mian Ali Ashfaq in Lahore on Monday. X photo
Tariq Butt, Correspondent / Agencies
Senior journalist Imran Riaz - who had been missing for more than four months - is now "safe at home,” Punjab Inspector General (IG) Dr Usman Anwar confirmed on Monday.
Sialkot District Police Officer (DPO) Hassan Iqbal and Riaz’s lawyer, Mian Ali Ashfaq, also confirmed the development. Riaz was arrested two days after violent protests broke out across Pakistan following former prime minister Imran Khan’s arrest on May 9. He was last known to be taken to cantonment 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 anchorperson was released from jail after taking an undertaking in writing. On Sept.20, the LHC had given the Punjab police chief a last opportunity to recover Riaz by Sept.26.
During the hearing, LHC Chief Justice Muhammad Ameer Bhatti had stated that his patience was "running out.”
In a post on social media platform X (formerly Twitter) during the early hours of Monday, the Sialkot police said, "Journalist/anchor Imran Riaz has been safely recovered. He is now with his family.”
Separately, his lawyer Mian Ali Ashfaq, said in a post on X, "By God’s special blessing, grace, and mercy, I have brought back my prince. It took a lot of time due to the mountain of difficulties, the last limit of understanding of the matter, a weak judiciary, and the current ineffective public constitution and legal helplessness,” he said.
Hamid Mir, a prominent TV journalist, confirmed that Riaz had reached his home in Lahore.
No one has claimed responsibility for Riaz’s abduction. The international media watchdog Reporters Without Borders and Pakistan's journalist community had demanded his release.
Riaz has more than 5 million followers on X and is highly popular among supporters of Imran, the country's leading opposition figure who was ousted in a no-confidence vote in April 2022.
Riaz had written extensively and produced TV shows in support of the ex-prime minister before going missing.
The Pakistan Tahrik-e-Insaf (PTI), welcomed his release.
Last Thursday, agents from the Federal Investigation Agency arrested an Islamabad-based TV anchor, Khalid Jamil, who is known for criticising the authorities, on charges of spreading false information about state institutions on social media.
Pakistan has long been an unsafe country for journalists. In 2020, it ranked ninth on the Committee to Protect Journalists’ annual Global Impunity Index, which assesses countries where journalists are harassed and killed without the assailants being held accountable.
In recent years, activists and journalists have increasingly come under attack by the government and the security establishment, restricting the space for a free press, criticism and dissent.
Shehbaz, 70, is the younger brother of three-time prime minister Nawaz Sharif, who was barred by the Supreme Court in 2017 from holding public office and subsequently went abroad for medical treatment after serving just a few months of a 10-year jail sentence for corruption charges.
The protests on Sunday night took place from about 9:30pm in Islamabad, Lahore, Karachi, Peshawar, Malakand, Multan, Khanewal, Khyber, Jhang, Quetta, Okara, Abbottabad , Bajaur, Lower Dir, Shangla and other big cities of the country, reports Dawn news.
“I am upset with the Supreme Court's decision. I was shocked because when the Deputy Speaker conducted the investigation, the Supreme Court should have investigated.
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