Pakistani TV Anchor Imran Riaz Khan Returns Home After Mysterious Disappearance

A prominent Pakistani television anchor, Imran Riaz Khan, who had gone missing for more than four months after being arrested, mysteriously returned home on Monday, according to local media reports. Imran Riaz Khan, known for his support of the jailed former Prime Minister Imran Khan, was believed to have been held by the country’s security agencies.

Riaz Khan’s arrest took place at an airport in Punjab’s Sialkot in May as he attempted to leave the country. Prior to his arrest, he had shared a video message expressing concerns about the shrinking space for journalists to do their jobs in the crisis-marred country.

His disappearance occurred two days after violent protests erupted across Pakistan following the arrest of Pakistan Tahreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chief on May 9. Imran Riaz Khan had voiced support for the former prime minister before his sudden disappearance.

PTI, Imran Khan’s political party, welcomed the news of Imran Riaz Khan’s release. They issued a statement saying, “Imran Riaz Khan, a well-known Pakistani journalist who was ‘missing’ for almost 5 months now, has finally returned home.”

The statement continued, “He is one of the many names who are suffering from #EnforcedDisappearancesInPakistan. These are innocent people who are either members and supporters of Pakistan’s largest and only federal party PTI, led by Chairman Imran Khan, or people who have raised their voices against the unprecedented fascism, utter lawlessness, suspension of the constitution, and dismantling of democracy in the country.”

Pakistan’s security agencies have gained notoriety for detaining individuals without producing them before the courts, as required by law. On Monday, the Sialkot police announced that Imran Riaz Khan had been “safely recovered” and was “now with his family.” However, no further details were provided.

Prominent TV journalist Hamid Mir confirmed that Khan had reached his home in Lahore. Khan’s lawyer, Mian Ali Ashfaq, also affirmed his freedom on social media, though he did not disclose who had held him. As of now, no one has claimed responsibility for Khan’s abduction.

Imran Riaz Khan boasts more than 5 million followers on social media and is highly popular among supporters of the former Prime Minister, the country’s leading opposition figure. The former Prime Minister was ousted in a no-confidence vote in April 2022 and was subsequently arrested last month on corruption charges. He was sentenced to three years in prison, though the sentence was later suspended. However, he still remains incarcerated.

Pakistan has long been regarded as 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 face harassment and violence without their assailants being held accountable.

(With agency inputs)

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