Saturday Oct 24, 2020
KARACHI: After remaining missing for more than 22 hours, senior Geo News reporter Ali Imran Syed returned to his mother's home in Karachi on Saturday evening.
After reaching his mother's home in the city, he reportedly established contact with his wife over the phone. He has returned safely and has not been physically harmed, he reportedly told her.
The journalist went missing on Friday evening after he had reportedly gone to a nearby bakery but did not return home.
He left home between 7pm-8pm and told the family that he would come back in half an hour but did not return despite the passage of many hours.
His car is parked outside the house and his mobile phone is also at home, his wife had said at the time.
Police authorities were informed about Imran's disappearance and had registered a case. Geo News administration also said the Karachi police chief and DIG East were informed of Imran having gone missing.
Police said the scene will be thoroughly inspected and CCTV footage will be obtained to probe further into the matter.
A fact-finding committee has been formed to probe the incident of the journalists' disappearance, a government notification said.
Federal Investigation Agency's Additional Director-General Ehsan Sadiq has been appointed as the head of the committee, with Additional IG Special Branch Sindh, Joint Director-General IB Sindh, and DIG East Karachi as its members.
The committee will ensure close liaison between the federal and provincial governments, the notification said.
The committee will determine the motives behind the incident and present its report, it added.
Earlier, Prime Minister Imran Khan directed the interior ministry to stay in touch with the Sindh government and monitor progress in the matter.
PM Imran issued the directives during his conversation with his adviser on accountability and interior Shahzad Akbar. The adviser had called PM Imran to brief him on the disappearance of the journalist.
“Provide assistance in recovery of missing journalist,” said PM Imran Khan. He also directed that the safety of all journalists should be ensured “at all costs”.
While taking cognisance of the reporter's disappearance, Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah directed Inspector General of Sindh Police Mushtaq Mahar to ensure that Geo News reporter is immediately recovered.
“Such actions against journalists are intolerable,” said Murad Ali Shah. “I want a progress report on Ali Imran every hour.”
In a conversation with Geo News management, the chief minister assured the channel's management that Ali Imran will be returned soon.
As word of the journalist going missing spread, Minister for Information Shibli Faraz said all concerned federal agencies have been directed to cooperate with the Sindh government to ensure the recovery of the Geo News reporter.
“The Sindh government and police should utilise all their resources for the recovery of Geo News reporter Ali Imran,” said the minister. He added that the “protection of journalists” is the responsibility of the government.
Meanwhile, Advisor to Prime Minister on Accountability and Interior Shahzad Akbar said that the federal government has noted with concern Ali Imran's disappearance.
"[Secretary interior] has spoken with IG Sindh for early recovery of the journalist and offered support/assistance of all federal agencies in this case & general safety of journalists in Sindh," Akbar said.
Federal Minister for Human Rights Shireen Mazari said no one should disappear in a democracy.
The minister said that the "country has strong laws, including anti-terror laws, to deal with those who are allegedly guilty of a crime".
PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari called the disappearance of journalist Ali Imran an attack on freedom of expression.
“The process of suppressing voices must stop now,” said the PPP chairman in a statement. He added that incidents like the disappearance of journalists create a “negative image of Pakistan around the world”.
The Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) condemned the disappearance of the journalist. PFUJ President Shahzad Zulfiqar and General Secretary Nasir Zaidi appealed to the IG Sindh to release the CCTV footage of the incident.
They also observed that state was trying to restrict the freedom of the press by creating panic among the journalists.
Meanwhile, the Rawalpindi Islamabad Union of Journalists (RIUJ) has raised concern on the matter and asked Prime Minister Imran Khan and Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah to take prompt action for his quick recovery.
In a statement, the RIUJ condemned the incident and warned of countrywide protests if Ali Imran was not recovered safely.
Senior journalist Nasim Zehra said that Ali Imran had obtained the CCTV video of Captain Safdar’s arrest from a Karachi hotel.
“Can’t you question Ali Imran without kidnapping him?” she asked.
Meanwhile, the Association of Electronic Media Editors and News Directors (AEMEND) said it was extremely concerned and worried about the missing reporter of Geo News Syed Ali Imran.
"We demand the provincial and federal governments and all law enforcement and security agencies to make efforts and ensure a safe return of Ali to his family and journalist fraternity," said the group in a statement.
The association said that there can be "no media freedom without protection of journalists". It also said that it was "high time that claims of freedom of media from all quarters are converted into actual action".
The journalists’ safety association, Editors for Safety (EfS), have also expressed grave concern over the “mysterious disappearance” of the journalist.
The group said it fears that the TV reporter may “have been forcibly” taken away because of his “work on the recent political events in Karachi, including the arrest of opposition member, Captain Safdar”.
“We believe it is the responsibility of both the provincial and federal security agencies to make sure Ali Imran is safely recovered as soon as possible” said EfS convenor Zaffar Abbas.
“If any bodily harm is done to Mr Imran, we will hold the authorities directly responsible,” added Abbas.
Similarly, the Pakistan Broadcasters Association (PBA) has also “expressed serious concerns” on the disappearance of Ali Imran.
The PBA strongly urged the provincial and federal governments to investigate and take urgent steps for his immediate recovery.
Rights watchdog Amnesty International's South Asia Office called on the authorities to establish immediately the "whereabouts" of the missing reporter.
"Ali Imran Syed, a reporter for Geo News, has been missing from Karachi since yesterday and feared to have been subject to an enforced disappearance for his reporting," said the rights watchdog.