PPF expresses concern over the whereabouts of anchorperson Imran Riaz Khan; urges authorities to provide clarity on arrests of Imran Riaz Khan and Aftab Iqbal
Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF) has expressed concern about the whereabouts of anchorperson Imran Riaz Khan. Despite being allegedly released after being taken into police custody on May 11, the anchor person’s whereabouts are not known. PPF also calls on authorities to provide clarity on the basis for Khan’s arrest and that of another anchorperson Aftab Iqbal.
While we are relieved at the release of Iqbal, we remain concerned about Khan’s whereabouts. The media person’s safe return must be ensured.
The lack of clarity and vague information about such detentions or arrests adds to the fear surrounding journalists’ work. It enables a culture of impunity for those who perpetrate violence and attacks against the media. While the arrests themselves are condemnable, once media persons are detained, the authorities must provide details of the arrests.
Authorities must provide details about the warrants under which the two media persons were arrested and the basis for taking them into custody.
Anchorperson Imran Riaz Khan, also arrested earlier this year in February, was taken into custody on May 11. Despite allegedly being released from jail, his whereabouts remain unclear.
According to The News, on May 11, Khan was arrested at Sialkot Airport in the Punjab province. As per the report, the anchorperson was arrested for “allegedly inciting violence” when clashes ensued between security forces and supporters of former prime minister Imran Khan. The report stated that Khan was offloaded from a plane by the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) when he was about to fly to Muscat from Sialkot. He was reportedly handed over to the police and shifted to an “unknown place.”
In court proceedings on May 12, the Lahore High Court Chief Justice Muhammad Ameer Bhatti was told that Khan had been released, The Express Tribune reported, adding that the chief justice had asked the anchorperson to be presented in court by 6 pm the same day.
According to Dawn, during the hearing, Khan’s mother had stated that his whereabouts were not known to the family.
Khan’s legal representative Advocate Rana Maroof Khan, told PPF that during court proceedings, the police had requested more time to present the anchorperson. However, despite delays when court proceedings resumed, the Inspector General of Police (IGP) failed to produce Khan.
The inspector general told the court that Khan had been arrested for misbehaving with staff at Sialkot Airport. He said the anchorperson had been handed over to Sialkot Police and released after some hours.
In a concerning statement, Maroof shared that the inspector general of police said he had no idea where Khan was.
The LHC chief judge directed police and the IGP to share records of the MPO withdrawal and CCTV footage of Khan’s release in which he was allegedly seen exiting the jail. The hearing was adjourned till May 15.
Advocate Rana Maroof Khan told PPF that during court proceedings on May 15, the district police officer (DPO) produced the CCTV footage in which it can be clearly see that four to five persons were taking a handcuffed Khan towards a car.
When Justice Ameer Bhatti asked DPO on whose orders Khan had been arrested, the DPO did not answer him correctly. However, justice Ameer Bhatti ordered the DPO to produce Imran Riaz Khan within 48 hours.
On the same day of Khan’s arrest, another anchorperson Aftab Iqbal was arrested from his farmhouse.
Speaking to PPF, Iqbal’s daughter, Ayesha Noor, shared that around 3 pm, around 18 people came to their residence in Lahore and arrested her father.
“They manhandled my father and my house staff, and without showing any notice or arrest warrant, they allegedly arrested my father,” Noor shared, adding that a few days prior, her father had indirectly told his family members that he could be arrested at any time due to his pro-Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf stance on his shows.
“We have no idea where my father is right now. He is not in any police station. He did not contact us, and it’s been almost 24 hours since he was abducted,” she had shared, adding that she believed that journalists’ bodies would help them secure her father’s release.
Iqbal’s brother Junaid Iqbal added that the media person was sleeping when four Punjab police special elite force wagons came in and arrested him without showing any arrest warrants while he was sleeping.
His electronic devices, including his mobile, iPad, and laptop, were also taken.
“We have no idea where they took him, and we are in a state of helplessness. For legal assistance, we requested Advocate Mian Ali Ashfaq, and he will file the writ petition in LHC,” Junaid Iqbal added.
On May 12, the LHC suspended the detention notice for Iqbal and ordered his release, The Express Tribune reported. As per the report, Iqbal and Khan had been taken into custody under Section 3 of the Maintenance of Public Order Ordinance (MPO).
In a statement, Lahore Press Club President Muhammad Azeem Chaudhry and other office bearers condemned the arrest of Iqbal and the detention of Khan. They had said that they would be compelled to protest if the two were not released.
The Council of Pakistan Newspaper Editors (CPNE) also condemned the arrests. In a statement, CPNE President Kazim Khan had called on the government to release the arrested journalists immediately. He said that the use of force can’t shackle differences in opinions.