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Missing Pakistani Journalist Returns Home 'Safely,' Family Says

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The journalist reported the discovery of video footage showing Pakistani paramilitary soldiers accompanying police during the controversial arrest at a Karachi hotel last week of Sharif's son-in-law, Muhammad Safdar Awan (pictured).

ISLAMABAD -- A reporter working for Pakistan's private Geo News television channel who had been reported missing in the southern port city of Karachi has been found, his family and employer say.

Geo News reported that Ali Imran Syed had contacted his wife by phone to say that he had reached his mother's home in Karachi.

The reporter had told his wife that he had "returned safely" and that he hadn't been "physically harmed," the channel said.

No further details were immediately available.

Earlier, police registered Syed's disappearance as an "abduction" case without naming suspects. There have been several cases of Pakistani journalists being detained or abducted for several hours, before being released.

Syed was last seen late on October 23 when he left his home in Karachi to shop at a nearby grocery store, telling his wife he would be back in half an hour.

A day before his disappearance, he reported on the presence of paramilitary troops during the controversial arrest of a relative of Nawaz Sharif, the country's exiled former prime minister.

A day before his disappearance, Syed reported the discovery of video footage showing Pakistani paramilitary soldiers accompanying police during the controversial arrest at a Karachi hotel last week of Sharif's son-in-law, Muhammad Safdar Awan.

Awan was later released. Authorities never announced why he had been taken into custody.

Awan's arrest came a day after his wife, Maryam Nawaz, Sharif's daughter and political successor, criticized military-backed Prime Minister Imran Khan and the Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa at a protest rally.

That rally was part of an ongoing protest movement by an 11-party opposition alliance that is calling for the resignation of Khan's government and an end to the military's longtime involvement in politics.

Sharif's political party, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), leads the alliance.

Geo News Karachi's managing director, Azhar Abbas, said Syed's family and the channel were in touch with both federal and regional authorities in an effort to ensure his safe return.

Complaints of attacks, intimidation, and online abuse of journalists who criticize Pakistan's powerful military have become common in recent years.

International human rights groups and Pakistani opposition parties had suggested that Syed may have been targeted by authorities in a forced disappearance. They are calling for his immediate release.

Maryam Nawaz, the deputy leader of Sharif's PML-N, earlier accused federal authorities of being behind what she said appeared to be the forced disappearance of the reporter.

"Don't earn yourself more criticism by kidnapping people and stopping them from raising their voice for the truth," she said on October 24. "This is very wrong [and] needs to stop."

Pakistan's powerful military and intelligence agencies are often accused of being responsible for enforced disappearances. They deny the allegations.

A high-ranking official in the media wing of Pakistan's military told RFE/RL on October 24 that the army was not involved in Syed's disappearance.

The official spoke to RFE/RL on condition of anonymity, saying he was not authorized to talk to the media about Syed's disappearance.

Several other Pakistani journalists have been detained in recent months, allegedly by the military's spy agency, in what is thought to be an attempt to silence critics of the military.

With reporting by Ahmad Shah of RFE/RL's Radio Mashaal, Geo News, and dpa
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    Radio Mashaal

    Radio Mashaal is a public-service broadcaster providing a powerful alternative to extremist propaganda in Pakistan's remote tribal regions along the border with Afghanistan.

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