Senior journalist Imran Riaz Khan has finally returned home safely after missing without a trace for over four long months. This news comes from District Police Officer Sialkot, Hassan Iqbal, who confirmed Imran's safe return.
The journalist's ordeal began when he was detained just two days after the nationwide protests that erupted on May 9.
These protests followed the arrest of PTI Chairman Imran Khan. Imran Riaz Khan found himself in a whirlwind of events as he was taken into custody and brought to Sialkot prison from Cantt. Police Station.
However, on May 15, the Lahore High Court was informed that Imran had been released from jail after giving a written undertaking. Still, he remained missing for an agonizingly long period.
The Lahore High Court, not willing to give up on the quest to find Imran Riaz Khan, gave the Punjab police chief a final chance on September 20. They urged him to bring Imran back by September 26.
In a post on a X formerly known as Twitter, the Sialkot police announced, "Journalist/anchor Mr. Imran Riaz Khan has been safely recovered. He is now 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
Imran Riaz Khan's lawyer, overjoyed, shared his sentiments on the situation. He said, "By God's special blessing, grace, and mercy, I have brought back my prince."
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
He also revealed the challenges they faced in this long journey, including difficulties, the limitations of the legal system, and the feeling of helplessness.
However, he concluded by expressing his immense gratitude for this momentous day.
Timeline of Imran Riaz Khan’s case
Imran Riaz Khan's case started on May 9 when fiery protests erupted like a wildfire after PTI Chairman Imran Khan's arrest.
Amidst the chaos, the YouTuber found himself in the cold, steel grip of the police.
Fast forward to May 15, and the Lahore High Court got wind of his impending release, thanks to a written undertaking.
But just when things seemed to settle, Imran Riaz Khan disappeared into thin air, leaving everyone scratching their heads.
May 16, a date etched in his father Muhammad Riaz's memory, marked the day when he decided to take matters into his own hands.
An FIR was filed with the Sialkot Civil Lines police, pointing fingers at the mysterious kidnappers.
The charge? Kidnapping with intent to secretly and wrongfully confine, as per Section 365 of the Pakistan Penal Code.
Desperation reached its peak as his father knocked on the Lahore High Court's door, pleading for his son's return on May 19.
Tearfully, he begged for mercy as the crackdown on the protesters intensified.
The very next day, the Chief Justice of the high court issued a stern order to the police: find the senior journalist and bring him before the jury by May 22.
The Lahore High Court didn't stop there. They summoned the ministries of interior and defense to step up and do their constitutional duty after Punjab's IG Anwar confessed they couldn't find a trace of the journalist in any police department across the country.
Both the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and the Military Intelligence (MI) disowned any involvement, leaving everyone baffled. May 26 rolled around, and the court had enough.
They commanded "all the agencies" to join forces, team-up, and locate Riaz, demanding his appearance in court by May 30.
IG Anwar revealed a starting lead: phone numbers linked to Afghanistan were connected to the case.
The lawyer representing Riaz added some spice to the June 6 hearing, saying their patience was "wearing thin."
The Punjab administration assured the court that efforts were in motion to find the missing journalist.
July 5 came, and the Lahore High Court set a deadline of July 25, for the police to uncover the truth. However, the bench was unavailable, and no hearing took place.
At that moment, retired Brigadier Falak Naz, representing the Ministry of Defense, assured the court that they were hot on the trail.
"We are working on tracing locations and other issues. We are trying to recover Imran Riaz as soon as possible," he declared.
On September 6 Punjab IG Usman Anwar promised "good news" in the coming days. The court, willing to give him a fair chance, granted an extension until September 13.
However, the promised "good news" never materialized. On September 13, IG Anwar assured the court that the investigation was "going in the right direction." The court's patience was running thin, but they held on.
Finally, on September 20, the Lahore High Court issued a stern warning.
They gave Punjab IG one last shot to bring Riaz back, setting the ultimatum for September 26.
Who is Imran Riaz Khan?
Imran Riaz Khan is a prominent Pakistani journalist, TV anchor, social media influencer, YouTuber, and political analyst.
He began his career as a crime reporter for a local newspaper before transitioning to television journalism, where he gained recognition for his fearless interviews with controversial figures in Pakistan.
His professional journey extends internationally, with work as a correspondent for global news agencies and contributions as a columnist for The Express Tribune newspaper.
Khan covered significant events such as the 9/11 attacks, the War on Terror, the 2006 military coup in Thailand, and the Gaza war.
He often provided insights to international networks like BBC World News and Al-Jazeera English.
Over two decades, Khan established himself as one of Pakistan's most respected journalists and anchorpersons, hosting popular talk shows.
In 2020, he ventured into modern media by launching his YouTube channel, "Imran Riaz Khan," amassing millions of subscribers.
Apart from journalism, Khan served as a visiting faculty member at prestigious Pakistani universities and married fellow journalist Kiran Imran.
However, he faced controversy due to his passion for hunting and allegations of illegal hunting without permits.
Critics also questioned his impartiality, accusing him of favoring Imran Khan and the PTI party, leading to his arrest in May 2023.
Despite these controversies, Imran Riaz Khan's impact on Pakistani media and journalism remains significant, known for his bold reporting and influential presence in the industry.