Former prime minister and PTI Chairman Imran Khan on Tuesday claimed that slain journalist Arshad Sharif was a victim of targeted killing.
Sharif was shot dead in Kenya allegedly by the local police on Sunday night, with an official police statement later expressing “regrets on the unfortunate incident” and saying an investigation was underway.
Initially, Kenyan media quoted the local police as saying Sharif was shot dead by police in a case of “mistaken identity”.
Imran addressed the journalist’s killing during his speech at a lawyers’ convention in Peshawar today, saying that Sharif was a “martyr”.
“He (Sharif) knew his life was in danger. He knew he was repeatedly getting warnings. He didn’t step back. I told him [to back down but] he wasn’t scared and then lastly, this targeted killing. No matter what people say, I know this was targeted killing.”
Imran paid tribute to Sharif, calling him “a brave patriot who never compromised his conscience”. He also spoke about his immense respect and admiration for the journalist.
Imran said Sharif stood for “justice, truth and Pakistan’s interests”, adding that he himself had been on the receiving end of criticism from the journalist on numerous occasions.
“He never spared any mafia. He exposed these two families (Sharif and Zardari families) in every programme with proof but no one could scare or buy him … then he started getting threats from unknown numbers to ‘not say this or speak the truth’ when he started exposing this regime.
“Then I received information that they were about to kill him. They invaded his home and scared him in front of his family just so that he doesn’t speak the truth,” Imran claimed, adding that he had then advised Sharif to leave the country.
“He refused [to leave]. Then, I told him that I have information, the same way I had information about a plot to kill me.”
Imran said Sharif left the country but was being called back when his visa in the UAE was about to expire. “Not because he committed a crime but just so he doesn’t speak the truth. And they wanted to do the same with him what they did with Azam Swati, Shahbaz Gill and Jameel Farooqui,” Imran added.
Gill, Swati and journalist Jameel Farooqui were all arrested recently in separate cases and later alleged that they were stripped naked and tortured during custody.
Imran spoke of an unknown personality in Islamabad, whom he branded ‘Dirty Harry’ and accused of stripping people naked as part of torture tactics.
Regarding his planned long march to Islamabad, Imran said he was never as resolute on the matter as today since “I’ve decided the country is standing on [a crossroad between] two paths.”