Pakistani journalist and YouTuber Imran Riaz Khan is still missing

Pakistani journalist and YouTuber Imran Riaz Khan is still missing
Journalist Imran Riaz Khan. Source: © Screen grab/YouTube/@imranriazkhan1 via Al Jazeera, 2023.


Julija Stavar

TEAM PAKISTAN Researcher, 

Global Human Rights Defence.

Imran Riaz Khan is a well-known Pakistani journalist, political commentator and YouTuber. He is known for his controversial political comments on YouTube and is a vocal supporter of former Prime Minister Imran Khan, who is facing charges for different corruption cases. On May 11, 2023, he was arrested by the police at Sialkot Airport for allegedly inciting violence during the protests after former PM Khan’s arrest that sparked clashes between security forces and his supporters (Dogar, 2023). His brother commented that Imran Riaz Khan was fleeing to Oman because police raided his house in Lahore the day before (Hussain, 2023).

After two weeks of his arrest, the journalist is still missing and nobody seems to know where he is. When the family inquired about the location of the journalist, the police said they released him and that he left with a group of unknown people (Hussain, 2023). Nevertheless, the CCTV footage from the police station showed him being kidnapped by masked men, the father claims (Hussain, 2023). The family’s lawyer said that there are no existing charges against him and that the authorities have no grounds to keep him (Hussain, 2023). The family filed an appeal and there is now a case about the journalist’s disappearance at the Lahore High Court. The court directed the Punjab police to recover and present the journalist before the court for a hearing, but they failed to produce him (Bilal, 2023a). Police continue to claim that he is not in their custody and there was no trace of him at any police department across the country, nor is he with the country’s intelligence and investigation agencies (Bilal, 2023a, 2023b). The Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah Khan said in an interview earlier this week that “if it is proven that Imran Riaz Khan was kidnapped, the government will go after the perpetrators” (Hussain, 2023).

The arrest and disappearance was condemned and criticised by several international organisations, including Amnesty International and Reporters Without Borders (RSF), as well as by other journalists and human rights activists. In a joint statement Amnesty International, Equidem, CIVICUS and Forum Asia “have urged the Pakistani government authorities to stop clamping down on the political opposition through mass arrests, arbitrary detention, and charging people under vague anti-terrorism laws, and to release immediately all those held solely for exercising their right to freedom of peaceful assembly” (The News, 2023). They condemned the disappearance of Imran Riaz Khan, claiming that the police failure to produce him after court orders constitutes an enforced disappearance under international human rights law (The News, 2023). Punishing dissenting voices using enforced disappearance appears to be a worrying trend in the country (The News, 2023). Daniel Bastard, the head of Asia-Pacific at RSF, believes it is clear that Pakistan’s military intelligence agencies are the ones who abducted the journalist after the Punjab police inspector acknowledged that he was taken away in a police van after his release by the police (RSF, 2023). Mr Bastard also stated: “It is up to Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s civilian government to ensure respect for the rule of law by producing the journalist in court or ordering his release. Failing this, the Pakistani authorities will be held directly responsible for any harm that may have befallen him” (RSF, 2023). 

Sources and further readings:

Bilal, R. (2023a, May 22). No trace of Imran Riaz in any police dept across Pakistan, Punjab IG tells LHC. Dawn. Retrieved May 25, 2023, from 

Bilal, R. (2023b, May 25). ISI and MI say Imran Riaz not in their custody, senior cop tells LHC. Dawn. Retrieved May 25, 2023, from 

Dogar, A. (2023, May 12). Imran Riaz, Aftab Iqbal arrested. The News. Retrieved May 25, 2023, from 

Hussain, A. (2023, May 23). Journalist Imran Riaz Khan still missing in Pakistan. Al Jazeera. Retrieved May 25, 2023, from 

RSF. (2023, May 23). Where is the Pakistani TV anchor who has been missing for 12 days?. Reporters Without Borders. Retrieved May 25, 2023, from 

The News. (2023, May 24). Amnesty, allied rights bodies urge Pakistan to end clampdown on opposition. The News. Retrieved May 25, 2023, from