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Afghan phone numbers involved in Imran Riaz case, Punjab IG tells LHC

Punjab Inspector General Dr. Usman Anwar informed the Lahore High Court (LHC) on Tuesday that phone numbers linked to Afghanistan were connected to the case of anchorperson Imran Riaz Khan,
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Punjab Inspector General Dr. Usman Anwar informed the Lahore High Court (LHC) on Tuesday that phone numbers linked to Afghanistan were connected to the case of anchorperson Imran Riaz Khan, whose whereabouts have remained unknown since his arrest on May 11.

The statement was made during the court’s hearing of a plea seeking to locate the anchorperson, who was among those detained following protests that erupted in the country after the arrest of PTI chairman Imran Khan.

Subsequently, the anchorperson’s lawyer stated to Dawn.com that a writ petition was filed on May 12 regarding his client’s arrest, and the LHC directed the attorney general to produce him before the court on the same day. However, as the orders were not followed, the Sialkot police were given a 48-hour deadline to find Imran.

An FIR pertaining to the matter was registered on May 16 at Civil Lines police station based on a complaint filed by the anchorperson’s father, Muhammad Riaz. The FIR named “unidentified persons” and police officials for allegedly kidnapping Imran, invoking Section 365 (kidnapping or abducting with intent secretly and wrongfully to confine a person) of the Pakistan Penal Code.

During the previous hearing, the LHC had instructed “all the agencies” to collaborate in finding Imran and presenting him before the court on May 30 (today). The order came after Lahore police Deputy Inspector General (Investigation) Kamran Adil informed the court that both the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and the Military Intelligence (MI) had denied having custody of the anchorperson.

The hearing: Lahore High Court Chief Justice Muhammad Ameer Bhatti presided over today’s hearing, which was attended by the Punjab police chief and Imran’s counsel, Mian Ali Ashfaq.

At the beginning of the hearing, the chief justice requested clarification from the authorities regarding why Imran was still a “missing person.” He inquired whether the interior or defense ministries had submitted any reports on the matter.

“We did not state in our order that Imran Riaz is in the agencies’ custody. We emphasized that agencies should provide assistance in locating him,” Justice Bhatti remarked.

A representative from the Ministry of Defense informed the court that they had been unable to ascertain the journalist’s whereabouts thus far.

Meanwhile, the Punjab IG stated that geo-fencing had been conducted, but no relevant information was obtained. “We met with the legal team and the family of the missing anchorperson, as per the court’s instructions,” IG Anwar said.

He further mentioned that the provincial police had also contacted the Federal Investigation Agency regarding the case.

“In this case, certain foreign [phone] numbers were used. The numbers were traced back to Afghanistan. However, we do not have the capability to trace Afghan [phone] numbers,” he explained.

The IG expressed his desire to present the details and transcripts of the phone numbers in question to the judge’s chamber. “If the court permits, I can submit the details,” he added.

Consequently, the LHC Chief Justice directed the Punjab IG to appear in his chambers and adjourned the hearing until 12:30 PM.

Meanwhile, the anchorperson’s counsel stated that his client had still not been found. “Others are apprehended within two days, but Imran Riaz has not yet been located,” he remarked.

Justice Bhatti then commented that it was relatively easier to apprehend individuals who were within the country.

“That implies that the Punjab IG has convinced you that Imran Riaz Khan has left for Afghanistan,” the counsel responded.

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