June 4, 2023

Islamabad, Pakistan Practically two weeks in the past, a brief video surfaced on social media exhibiting a bunch of police escorting Pakistani journalist and political commentator Imran Riaz Khan from Sialkot Worldwide Airport.

The controversial 47-year-old commentator with over three million YouTube subscribers has not appeared publicly since, and neither his household nor the police seem to know the place he’s.

His brother Usman Riaz Khan, 32, mentioned that on the day the video was taken, Might 11, Imran Riaz Khan was flying to Oman after deciding to flee Pakistan when his house in Lahore was raided by police a day earlier. .

“My brother was capable of spotlight political points in his 16-minute movies and he at all times instructed the reality, which is why they took him,” the youthful brother instructed Al Jazeera on Tuesday.

Talking from Lahore, Usman Riaz Khan mentioned the household had been instructed by Punjab police sources that his brother had been taken to the police station after being arrested at Sialkot airport.

After we requested, the police mentioned that we solely launched him that evening. The police additionally claimed that he left with a bunch of unknown individuals and so they don’t know something extra about him,” Usman mentioned, including that his brother doesn’t have any felony instances towards him.

Nonetheless, his father said in a proper grievance filed with the police that CCTV footage from the police station confirmed that his son had been “kidnapped” by “4 to 5 masked males” after his launch.

Azhar Siddiq, the household’s lawyer, criticized Imran Riaz Khan’s arrest, saying there have been no costs towards him anyplace within the nation.

“Regardless of the shortage of grounds for his detention, the authorities are discovering excuses to in some way decelerate the method and drag it out,” the lawyer instructed Al Jazeera on Tuesday, including that the household would enchantment.

Usman Riaz Khan mentioned that in a court docket listening to on Might 22, 11 days after his older brother was arrested on the airport, the police repeatedly said that Imran Riaz Khan was not of their custody.

” [Inspector General] instructed the court docket that he wanted three extra days to search out my brother, and now the subsequent listening to is on Thursday. My household is totally traumatized. My father is diabetic and may’t even speak about it,” he mentioned.

“Aside from the eldest daughter, we didn’t even inform the opposite three youngsters the place their father is and why he isn’t at house,” Usman Riaz Khan added.

authorities response

Punjab Police Inspector Basic Usman Anwar mentioned on Tuesday that Imran Riaz Khan just isn’t in police custody and declined to remark additional because the case is in court docket.

He’s not with us. The factor is pending court docket [before a judge]. It’s in no way required,” he instructed Al Jazeera in a phone message.

Interim Punjab Data Minister Amir Mir additionally denied that Imran Riaz Khan was in police custody.

The Punjab police chief gave the reply in court docket. The case is being heard there, however now we have no details about Imran Riaz Khan and he isn’t with us.”

In a televised interview on Monday, Inside Minister Rana Sanaullah Khan mentioned that whether it is confirmed that Imran Riaz Khan was kidnapped, the federal government will begin prosecuting the perpetrators.

“We turned to the particular providers and investigating authorities, and so they mentioned that he was not with them,” he mentioned.

Federal Data Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb mentioned she condemned any unlawful motion taken towards people, whereas on the similar time questioning Imran Riaz Khan’s journalistic credentials.

Imran Riaz Khan is a spokesman for a political social gathering. You could distinguish between a journalist and somebody who joins a political social gathering and incites violence. Don’t confuse them with these journalists who write experiences,” the minister instructed the British channel Channel 4 Information.

Khan controversy

The YouTuber and commentator has a combined popularity. Primarily based on his movies and statements, Imran Riaz Khan is carefully linked to former Prime Minister Imran Khan (no relation) and his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) political social gathering.

The video of Imran Riaz Khan being escorted from the airport was filmed two days after the previous prime minister was arrested on corruption costs.

Following the ex-premier’s arrest, large violent protests erupted throughout the nation, main the federal government to approve the institution of navy courts to attempt protesters concerned in assaults on navy installations beneath the draconian military regulation and state secrets and techniques regulation. Through the protests, not less than 10 individuals died and greater than 4,000 had been arrested on costs of vandalism and riots.

Till the removing of the previous prime minister from workplace in April 2022, Imran Riaz Khan was a powerful supporter of the navy and its actions towards journalists, however his pro-war stance modified quickly after.

Imran Riaz Khan was arrested twice by the authorities in July 2022 and February 2023 on costs of sedition. In each instances, he was launched in lower than every week, after which the fees had been dropped.

Freedom of the press

Reporters With out Borders (RSF), a world media freedom group, condemned the “kidnapping” of Imran Riaz Khan and mentioned it believed Pakistan’s spy businesses had been concerned.

It is not sensible to show a blind eye to the euphemism of “company”. It’s clear that Imran Riaz Khan was kidnapped by Pakistani navy intelligence,” mentioned Daniel Bastard, head of Asia Pacific at RSF, in an announcement launched on Tuesday.

“Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s civilian authorities should implement the rule of regulation by placing the journalist on trial or ordering his launch. In any other case, the Pakistani authorities will probably be straight chargeable for any hurt which will have been accomplished to him.”

Union of Journalists activist and reporter Matiulla Can criticized the federal government’s dealing with of Khan’s return. Highlighting the response of Data Minister Aurangzeb, Yan, who was additionally arrested for at some point in 2020, disagreed with Imran Riaz Khan’s criticism.

“You might be criticizing a person who has been lacking for nearly two weeks. You might be criticizing somebody who’s not less than in entrance of you or who can reply to you in variety. Are you a minister and insult the disappeared individual solely since you contemplate him a celebration employee? Does the employee justified by the Social gathering disappear? Yang requested Al Jazeera.

Analyst and journalist Absar Alam, who survived the assassination try in 2021, mentioned that unlawful and unconstitutional actions are unacceptable.

“If he has dedicated any crime, carry him earlier than the court docket. He might have had a historical past of defending such disappearances, ridiculing the struggling victims of different media staff who’ve been focused up to now. Nonetheless, anybody who forcibly disappeared was incorrect then and simply as incorrect now,” he instructed Al Jazeera.

One other senior journalist, Murtaza Solangi, instructed Al Jazeera that the state has an obligation to search out these chargeable for the disappearance of Imran Riaz Khan, no matter why he disappeared.

“I don’t know if he was taken away or if he disappeared. Discovering out is the duty of the state. Buck stops with them. Any citizen of this nation, even when she or he is a felony, should stand trial and endure due course of,” Solangi mentioned.

Pakistan has a confirmed observe document in relation to media freedom and the protection of journalists.

Media staff have lengthy been harassed by authorities businesses for his or her work, and plenty of of them have been attacked or fired from their jobs.

The nation ranked one hundred and fiftieth in RSF’s 2023 World Press Freedom Index, up seven spots from a yr earlier.

One other journalist and presenter, Arshad Sharif, needed to flee Pakistan final August after being threatened on his life and was killed in Kenya later in October.

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