A controversial Pakistani anchor and YouTuber, who went missing four months ago following the May 9 anti-government protest after former prime minister Imran Khan’s arrest, has returned home safely, police said on Monday. Imran Riaz Khan, 47, with more than three million followers on YouTube, was known for his highly critical views of the powerful military. He was reportedly arrested two days after violent protests broke out across the country following Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chairman Imran Khan’s arrest on May 9 in an alleged corruption case. The anchor was believed to be in the custody of intelligence agencies for the last four months.
Khan was an ardent supporter of the former prime minister and highly critical of the establishment after the former premier was ousted from office in April last year. He was last known to be taken to the Lahore Cantonment police station after his arrest and later to the Sialkot prison in Punjab province. On May 15, a law officer told the Lahore High Court (LHC) that the anchor was released from jail after taking an undertaking in writing.
However, on Monday Punjab province’s Sialkot police said that Khan has returned home safely without divulging any further information.
Punjab Inspector General Police (IGP) Dr Usman Anwar said in a statement on Monday that TV anchor and YouTuber Khan “is safe and back to his family in Lahore”.
“Journalist/Anchor Imran Riaz Khan has been safely recovered. He is now with his family,” Sialkot Police said in a statement on X. Khan’s lawyer Mian Ali Ashfaq also confirmed the development and said: “By God’s special blessing, grace, and mercy, I have brought back my prince.”
It took a lot of time due to the pile of difficulties, the last limit of understanding of the matter, a weak judiciary, and the current ineffective public constitution and legal helplessness,” he said.
Sharing a photograph with Khan in which he grew a white beard, the lawyer further said: “Weak, not in the best of health.”
The Lahore High Court was hearing the case of his alleged abduction and on September 20 had given the Punjab Police a last chance to recover the anchor.
It was not clear where he had been kept during that period.
Last week the IGP had told the Lahore High Court that good news was coming regarding Khan. Khan was leaving the country for UAE when the Federal Investigation Agency arrested him at the Sialkot Airport saying his name was on a no-fly list and handed him over to the Sialkot police.
However, the police told the LHC on a petition that he was released from their custody and they had no knowledge of his whereabouts. His family however had suspected the intelligence agencies’ involvement in his “abduction”.
Former premier Imran Khan before his arrest in Toshakhana (national treasury gifts) case had made passionate appeals to the judiciary to take up the matter of anchor Khan for his safe recovery.
In recent months, Pakistani activists and journalists have increasingly come under attack by the government and the security establishment.
Prominent TV anchor and investigative journalist Arshad Sharif, a strong critic of the military establishment and supporter of Imran Khan, was killed in Kenya last October as he fled Pakistan citing threats to his life from the security agencies.
He first fled to the UAE and then reportedly left for Kenya after the refusal of his visa extension. In an FIR, Sharif’s mother has named former army chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa and seven other intelligence officers for their alleged involvement in her son’s assassination.