NationalVOLUME 18 ISSUE # 04

Arshad Sharif’s targeted killing

A case has been registered against the murder of journalist Arshad Shari on an order by the Supreme Court of Pakistan. He became a victim of targeted killing which purportedly involved transnational characters.

A five-member larger bench of the Supreme Court, consisting of Chief Justice Umer Ata Bandial, Justice Ijazul Ahsen, Justice Mazahir Ali Akbar Naqvi, Justice Jamal Khan Mandokhel, and Justice Muhammad Ali Mazhar heard the suo motu case of senior journalist Arshad Sharif’s murder on December 6, 2022. On orders of the Apex Court, the Islamabad police registered a first information report (FIR).

A 592-page report by a fact-finding committee submitted to the Supreme Court categorically declares that Arshad Sharif had become a victim of targeted killing. The report said it was a “planned targeted assassination” which purportedly involved “transnational characters”. The investigators disputed the Kenyan police’s account, which described his death as “a case of mistaken identity.” The report said the “transnational roles of characters in Kenya, Dubai, and Pakistan” in the assassination cannot be excluded. It identified a number of inconsistencies in the circumstances surrounding his murder. The report claims that members of the Kenyan General Services Unit (GSU) used an AK-47 and a Gilboa weapon to fire nine bullets at Arshad Sharif’s vehicle. “Only one fire (sic) whose trajectory does not fit with the firing pattern,” the statement said. It was revealed that “Arshad Sharif was wounded from the rear and the bullet departed from the right side of the chest, but there is no penetration mark of a bullet on his seat.” It was said and referred to as a “closed range fire” because that does not match his seating position, the location of the gunners, as well as the line of fire.

The investigators were surprised to note that the “driver’s side door and window are undamaged, and the driver’s seat does not even have any splatters of blood, which is curious since one of the injuries to Arshad Sharif was a head wound that caused his skull to shatter and spread hair, blood and bone particles over the passenger seat, the passenger side roof of the car, and even on the rear passenger seat.”

It also identified the factors, such as the filing of nearly a dozen FIRs, that compelled the journalist to flee Pakistan. Investigators also found links between Arshad Sharif’s host Waqar, a contractor for the US embassy in Nairobi, and various international intelligence services and law enforcement agencies.

According to the report, Waqar was also in contact with a senior officer in Islamabad and a Pakistani politician. When Waqar was requested for CCTV footage of Arshad Sharif’s home, he stated he would only provide it with the official’s approval.

The report states, “The fact that he handed over the personal cell phone and iPad of Arshad Sharif to an NIS officer rather than to police establishes his links with the NIS”. According to the report, “His linkage with national and international agencies provides a scope of possibility of transnational characters in this case.” The investigation also cast doubt on Khurram, Waqar’s brother, who was driving the jeep. The report said the “narration presented by Khurram, who was driving the vehicle, on the sequence of the crime scene is contrary to logic and facts.”

The report has removed all the myths, doubts and conspiracy theories about the killing of the journalist by establishing that it was a planned murder. Obeying orders of the apex court, the government has also constituted a special joint investigation team to probe the killing.

During the hearing, Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Umer Ata Bandial announced that the new team would make progress and bring the matter to a logical conclusion. “All that we want is a transparent and impartial investigation into this highly sensitive matter, and we expect that the team will make progress and yield positive results after investigating all the areas from many dimensions,” the chief justice remarked. Justice Ijazul Ahsen, another member of the bench, said that the accused could be brought back through Interpol. During the hearing, the mother of the murdered journalist also submitted an appeal to the court. After reading the application, the chief justice said, “It could be the complainant’s version” and advised her to record a statement before the special team.

Arshad Sharif’s murder has also attracted the attention of the world, as Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has called for a UN investigation into his killing in Kenya. There is no doubt that he had created some formidable adversaries as a result of his investigative reporting and analyses of Pakistani politics. He rendered a meritorious service by exposing the corruption of the ruling elite. Unfortunately, powerful forces have killed him to save their corruption. However, every effort should be made to uncover and arrest those who ordered his killing. No democratic country can make progress without protecting journalists and freedom of expression. The Constitution of Pakistan also ensures freedom of speech. Hopefully, under the supervision of the Apex Court, all the culprits in Arshad Sharif’s murder will be brought to justice.