Senior journalist and Express News anchorperson Imran Riaz Khan, the most vocal critic of the ruling coalition, was arrested from Islamabad Toll Plaza late on Tuesday disregarding the fact that a court has already granted him a pre-arrest bail.
Imran Riaz, who is currently associated with Express News, has been implicated in a slew of cases which he says were motivated by his refusal to “stop speaking the truth”.
Of late, over a dozen FIRs have been registered against him on charges as serious as abetment of mutiny and criticism of the state institutions.
In a video of his arrest, which went viral on social media, over a dozen policemen of Punjab Police can be seen surrounding his car.
Reportedly, he was arrested in a case lodged at the Attock police station and was taken to the same district.
In the video, Riaz can be heard saying that he was coming to the federal capital to get bail from the Islamabad High Court (IHC). “I don’t think this [arrest] makes any difference.. I am requesting all journalists to raise your voice and continue performing your duties,” he said, adding that the arrest was a clear contempt of court.
Express News anchorperson Imran Riaz Khan was taken into custody near Islamabad Toll Plaza on Tuesday night. Police mobiles surrounded his vehicle and after a short video message, he stepped out of his car and walked toward a police vehicle.#etribune #news #imranriazkhan pic.twitter.com/BtMFjdZL0a
— The Express Tribune (@etribune) July 5, 2022
“This is Islamabad’s jurisdiction where I am being arrested because Toll Plaza starts from here. Justice Athar Minallah [Chief Justice Islamabad High Court] has also granted me bail so in this situation this arrest is wrong. I have to appear in his court to get bail in the morning,” the journalist could be heard as saying in the video.
“It makes no difference whether they imprison me or kill me or whatever they do… I think we should continue performing our duties… I am requesting all journalists to raise your voice and keep doing your jobs.
“I am going to give arrest with courage… will see what happens next… my car and weapons have been snatched [by authorities] and 20 FIRs were registered against me.”
Punjab Law Minister Malik Ahmad confirmed the development but said that Imran Riaz was arrested in the limits of Rawalpindi division as cases against him were registered in Punjab.
“The impression that the arrest was made in Islamabad is wrong,” he added.
Police sources told The Express Tribune that instructions to arrest the journalist were received from Lahore and his belongings including mobile phone and wallet were also later seized by the police officials.
They said attempts were made to cover up his arrest but the Attock police later confirmed the development after the footage of his arrest went vial on social media.
Police team headed by the RPO Rawalpindi said that Riaz was later shifted to Airport Police Station in the federal capital.
Also read: Journalist Ayaz Amir attacked in Lahore
The police officials said the journalist was arrested in a case registered at City Attock police station on the complaint of a citizen named Malik Mureed Abbas under the Electronic Crimes Act and six other sections.
In the FIR, the citizen stated that he saw a video on social media in which Riaz tried to tarnish the image of a state institution.
The journalist had filed a petition in the Islamabad High Court to avoid arrest, on which the court directed the authorities concerned not to arrest him and directed the journalist to co-operate with the law enforcement agencies.
“There were 17 cases registered against Imran Riaz Khan across Punjab. When we filed a petition in the Islamabad High Court, the court had directed the authorities concerned across the country not to arrest him,” his lawyer Mian Ali Ashfaq said.
He added that they had also filed a petition in the Lahore High Court (LHC) on which the judge had directed the Punjab police chief to provide a copy of the cases and not to arrest him. The lawyer said that he will file a petition in the Islamabad High Court against the arrest and hoped that the honourable judges would take strict action against the violators of the court orders and ensure his release.
Arrest widely condemned
Hashtags in favour of the incarcerated journalist stared trending soon after news of his arrest went viral on social media.
Condemning the arbitrary arrest of the journalist, former PM Imran said, “The country is descending into fascism just to make our nation accept an Imported Govt comprising of mega crooks. It is time for everyone, esp the media, to unite & stand up against this fascism.”
I strongly condemn the arbitrary arrest of @ImranRiazKhan by Punjab police tonight. The country is descending into fascism just to make our nation accept an Imported Govt comprising of mega crooks. It is time for everyone, esp the media, to unite & stand up against this fascism.
— Imran Khan (@ImranKhanPTI) July 5, 2022
Condemning the arrest of Imran Riaz Khan, PTI leader Shahbaz Gill said, “Imran Riaz is a patriotic Pakistani and professional journalist. He brings the truth to the people with sincerity.”
“[I] strongly condemn the arrest and there will be a nationwide protest against it tomorrow… what Shahbaz Sharif and Rana Sana are doing is not found in the history of Pakistan and the worst dictatorship will not be tolerated by journalists and the nation,” he said.
Former minister and PTI leader Fawad Chaudhry said, “I hope the judges will take notice of the contempt of court. There were 15 SHOs present at the time of Imran Riaz Khan’s arrest.”
عمران ریاض کی گرفتاری کی پرزور مذمت کرتے ہیں اور اسکے خلاف کل ملک گیر احتجاج بھی کیا جائے گا، شہباز شریف اور رانا ثناء جو کر رہے اسکی مثال پاکستان کی تاریخ اور بدترین آمریت میں بھی نہیں ملتی اسے نہ صحافی برداشت کریں گے اور نہ ہماری قوم۔ @SHABAZGIL
— PTI (@PTIofficial) July 5, 2022
Journalist Kamran Khan said with “sinking” approval rating, PM Shahbaz-led government is in a state of panic. “Onslaught against freedom of speech continues with arrest of Imran Riaz Khan tonight just a few days after an attack on Ayaz Amir Sb also in Islamabad. The capital now most dangerous territory for critics of Govt,” he added.
With sinking approval rating Shahbaz Govt is in a state of Panic. Onslaught against freedom of speech continues with arrest of Imran Riaz Khan tonight just a few days after an attack on Ayaz Amir Sb also in Islamabad. The capital now most dangerous territory for critics of Govt pic.twitter.com/s88livGnTQ
— Kamran Khan (@AajKamranKhan) July 5, 2022
“Tomorrow, PTI workers will protest in front of press clubs across the country against the arrest of Imran Riaz Khan and the attempt to suppress freedom of expression,” announced former minister Asad Umar on his official handle.
کل پاکستان تحریک انصاف کے ورکرز پریس کلبوں کے سامنے ملک بھر میں عمران ریاض خان کی گرفتاری اور آزادی اظہار کو دبانے کی کوشش کے خلاف احتجاج کریں گے
— Asad Umar (@Asad_Umar) July 5, 2022
Other PTI leaders, journalists and rights activists echoed the similar sentiments while demanding the authorities concerned to release the journalist at the earliest.
“Imran Riaz Khan’s arrest is a clumsy attempt to win the battle of ideas through the barrel of a gun. These methods have failed in the past and will continue to fail. Repeating them is insanity,” rights activist Ammar Ali Jan wrote on his official handle.
A person’s political views are irrelevant when discussing his rights as a citizen. Imran Riaz Khan’s arrest is a clumsy attempt to win the battle of ideas through the barrel of a gun. These methods have failed in the past and will continue to fail. Repeating them is insanity.
— Ammar Ali Jan (@ammaralijan) July 5, 2022
“The arrest of Imran Riaz is inappropriate. You can object and disagree with him on his affiliation, but it is not right to suppress freedom of expression through arrests. The arrest of Imran Riaz cannot be supported,” wrote journalist Azaz Syed.
عمران ریاض کی گرفتاری نامناسب ہے آپ ان سے اختلاف اور ان کی وابستگی پر بھی اعتراض کرسکتے ہیں مگر آزادی اظہار کو گرفتاریوں کے زریعے دبانا درست نہیں ۔ عمران ریاض کو گرفتار کرنے کی حمایت نہیں کی جاسکتی
— Azaz Syed (@AzazSyed) July 5, 2022
A video shared on social media showed people chanting “Pakistan Zindabad” and “stop violence against journalists” slogans as Imran Riaz was taken into custody.
The journalist can be seen standing behind bars in the other.
People also took to Lahore’s Liberty Chowk to protest against the arrest of Imran Riaz Khan.
“If freedom of speech is taken away, then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter,” senior political analyst and former diplomat Zafar Hilaly wrote in a Twitter post.
(With additional input from News Desk)