Court vows to ‘spare no one’ if harm comes to Imran Riaz

LAHORE, May 23 : The Lahore High Court (LHC) chief justice on Monday warned authorities that the court would not “spare anyone” should any harm be caused to missing anchor person Imran Riaz Khan.

The remarks came as the judge expressed his dismay over Punjab Inspector General Dr Usman Anwar’s admission before CJ Muhammad Ameer Bhatti’s court that he was “clueless” of the whereabouts of the anchorperson.

The IG appeared before the LHC today after the 48-hour deadline granted by the court to present Khan expired.

The journalist, who is a staunch and vocal supporter of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan and his policies, was arrested by the police on May 11 from Sialkot Airport.

The government had swung into action and initiated a crackdown against PTI supporters after the former premier’s arrest from the premises of the Islamabad High Court on May 9 sparked widespread protests and rioting.

The anchor was reportedly arrested for allegedly inciting violence during clashes between security forces and PTI supporters.

On May 12, the LHC ordered the IG prisons to present the journalist in court on the same day. The IG, however, told the court that the jail authorities had already released Khan.

The LHC, frustrated with the lack of answers from Sialkot’s district police officer (DPO) in locating Khan, had summoned the IGP to help locate him.

During the proceedings on May 20 however, the IGP on several occasions had appeared clueless about how to respond to a barrage of queries by the CJ.

When repeatedly questioned in the courtroom about why the system has failed to trace the anchorperson, the IG Punjab dismissed the notion that the anchorperson had been kidnapped, suggesting instead that he had hidden himself somewhere.

IGP Dr Usman updated the court on the actions taken by the police and their plans for the future. He stated that they had initiated the process of geo-fencing, collected data from Jazz and Telenor, obtained CCTV footage, contacted NADRA for the identification process, and involved agencies such as FIA, IB, ISI, and others. He had assured the court that they would make every effort to locate the anchorperson but requested some additional time.

Today, the IGP sought the assistance of law enforcement agencies after he failed a third time in producing the missing anchorperson.

He told the court that he had contacted all Deputy Inspector Generals (DIGs) but the efforts had been fruitless.

At one point, the IGP suggested that the court could “wrap up the matter quickly” if it would summon the defence and interior secretaries, insisting that Khan was “not in police custody”.

Khan’s lawyer advocate Azhar Siddique, however, objected to the officer’s stance. He maintained that the police were “playing hide and seek”.

The lawyer argued that both the DPO and the IGP’s failure in producing Khan reflected malafide intentions.

“Perhaps the IGP means to imply that he [Khan] is not in Punjab and the IGP requires access to Sindh and Balochistan,” remarked CJ Bhatti.

“Keep one thing in mind, everyone, that this court wants the protection of the anchorperson’s life”, CJ Bhatti remarked.

“No one will be spared if anything happened to Imran Riaz”, CJ Bhatti stressed.

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