• Military wants ‘high-level investigation’ to end speculation
• IHC asks authorities to take journalist bodies on board during probe

ISLAMABAD: On the directive of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, the interior minister on Tuesday constituted a three-member team to investigate the mysterious murder of a prominent TV anchor Arshad Sharif in Kenya.

The team comprising Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) director Athar Wahid, Intelligence Bur­eau (IB) deputy director general Omar Shahid Hamid and Lt Col Saad Ahmed of Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) will immediately visit Kenya and after investigating the brutal killing will present its report to the interior division, said an official notification.

The notification was issued hours after an announcement by the premier regarding the formation of a high-level judicial commission to probe the killing and army’s request to hold a high-level investigation so that any speculations could be put to rest.

In the wee hours of Wednesday morning, the journalist’s remains arrived at Islamabad airport from Nairobi via Doha.

In a video message from Saudi Arabia, where he has travelled to attend the Future Investment Initiative Summit, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif earlier announced, “The government will request the IHC [Islamabad High Court] to designate a judge for the purpose [judicial inquiry]. The issue of forming the judicial commission will also be placed before the federal cabinet for a final nod.”

Hours later, Inter-Service Public Relations (ISPR) Director General Maj Gen Babar Iftikhar said those blaming the “institution” for the killing of the journalist must be dealt with iron hands, adding such “speculation” must be avoided.

The military also requested the federal government to form a judicial body.

The prime minister, calling the killing “highly condemnable”, assured that the facts of the probe would be presented before the nation. Prior to his departure to Saudi Arabia, he said, he had telephoned Kenyan President William Rotu and urged him to hold a fair investigation besides playing his role for the swift repatriation of the journalist’s body.

The prime minister said the Kenyan president had expressed grief over the tragic incident and assured his all-out support in this regard.

Later in a tweet, the PM said: “I have decided to form a judicial commission to hold an inquiry into the killing of journalist Arshad Sharif in order to determine the facts of the tragic incident in a transparent & conclusive manner.”

Mr Sharif was shot dead in the Kenyan capital of Nairobi on Sunday night allegedly by the police, with an official statement from the Kenyan police expressing “regrets on the unfortunate incident” and saying an investigation into it was under way. Initially, the Kenyan media quoted the local police as saying Sharif was shot dead by police in a case of “mistaken identity”.

Probe to end speculation

Meanwhile, ISPR DG told a private TV channel that the military had requested the government to conduct a “high-level investigation” into the “accidental” killing of Sharif. “We have requested the government to hold a high-level investigation so that all these speculations can be put to rest,” he said.

“It is very unfortunate that people indulge in allegations […] and I think a thorough investigation needs to be conducted to tackle these things. I believe that the probe should not just be into these things but also on why Arshad Sharif had to leave Pakistan,” the DG said.

He stressed that it was important to find answers to questions about who forced Sharif to leave Pakistan, where he lived all this time, and what were the circumstances leading to this incident.

“At all these stages, unfortunately, at the end of the day, allegations are levelled and institutions are accused. So, this speculation has to be put to rest and it has to come to an end. This is why we have requested the government of Pakistan to take legal action against all these people who are leveling allegations without any evidence,” he added.

Recalling Sharif’s work over the years, the DG said the journalist was a “very professional man” and his programmes would be remembered as “textbook journalism”.

“This is why it is most upsetting that his accidental death is being used for baseless conversations and fingers are being raised on it. We just have to see who is using this unfortunate incident […] who is the beneficiary of this thing […] this needs to come to an end,” Gen Iftikhar added.

Shortly before the DG’s statement, Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf Chairman Imran Khan had in a speech at a lawyers’ convention in Peshawar, claimed the slain journalist was a victim of targeted killing.

Petition in IHC

Moreover, the Islamabad High Court (IHC), during hearing of a petition seeking an investigation into Mr Sharif’s killing through a commission, directed the government to take the journalists community on board during the inquiry.

IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah also asked whether someone from the government had visited the bereaved family and if the family needed any assistance.

He was apprised that Arshad Sharif had first flown to the UAE under mysterious circumstances, but the government had asked the UAE authorities to repatriate him. “Therefore, this matter may also be probed,” the petition said.

Justice Minallah reminded the petitioner that the Kenyan authorities were probing into the incident and since the matter was being dealt with between two states, government institutions could handle it accordingly.

The deputy attorney general, representing the federal government, suggested the court resume hearing on this matter once the Kenyan government had finalised a report on the killing and shared it with Pakistan.

The chief justice adjourned further hearing of the case until next week.

During the day, prominent figures including President Dr Arif Alvi and first lady Samina Alvi and people from all walks of life continued to throng Arshad’s residence in Sector F-11/3 here on Tuesday to condole his tragic death.

Published in Dawn, October 26th, 2022

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