Paramilitary troops and police officers stand guard outside a court where Pakistan s former Prime Minister Imran Khan is scheduled to appear in Islamabad, Pakistan, Tuesday, May 23, 2023. AP
Sami Abrahim's disappearance was first announced in a police tweet late Wednesday, hours after he went missing. His family and the Karachi-based independent BOL television, where Abrahim works, claimed on Thursday that he had been abducted.
Abrahim has long publicly opposed the government of Khan's successor, Premier Shahbaz Sharif. Khan, a former cricket star turned Islamist politician, was in office in 2018-2022 and was ousted in a no-confidence vote in the parliament last year.
In a news announcement, BOL TV said Abrahim was taken by unidentified men on Wednesday. Abrahim's brother, Ali Raza, filed a police complaint claiming that eight people in four vehicles intercepted his brother's car on his way back home from work in the capital, Islamabad, and took him away. His driver was unharmed.
The police tweet promised they would do their best to find the well-known TV reporter.
Abrahim’s disappearance comes two weeks after another pro-Khan TV journalist, Imran Riaz, went missing. Pakistani police have denied detaining him.
Reporters Without Borders — the international media watchdog also known by its French acronym RSF — expressed concern on Tuesday for Riaz's safety. In a statement, it urged Pakistan’s government “to ensure respect for the rule of law by immediately revealing where and in what conditions he is being held.”
Pakistan's media community and journalists have also demanded accountability for those behind the October killing in Kenya of Arshad Sharif, a prominent Pakistani TV anchor. The 50-year-old journalist was living in Kenya to avoid arrest at home on charges of maligning the powerful military. According to Kenyan police, officers opened fire at a car carrying Sharif when it drove through a checkpoint outside Nairobi instead of stopping.
Later, Nairobi police expressed regret over the shooting, saying it was a case of “mistaken identity” during a search for a similar car involved in a child abduction case.
Earlier this month, Khan's supporters clashed for days with police across Pakistan, attacking public property — including a radio station in the northwestern city of Peshawar — and military installations, angered by his arrest from a courtroom in Islamabad. The violence only subsided after Khan was released on a Supreme Court order.
The prime minister on Thursday visited the badly damaged station in Peshawar, promising in a speech to the staff there that all suspects linked to the recent violence would be prosecuted.
Khan has repeatedly accused Washington, the prime minister and the Pakistani military of being behind his ouster — charges that all three have denied — and has been leading an opposition campaign against the government, demanding early elections.
Since the violent protests, the government has cracked down on Khan's supporters, arresting more than 5,000 and threatening trials before military courts.