PESHAWAR: Describing the death of journalist Arshad Sharif by police firing in Kenya as an “act of targeted killing”, former prime minister Imran Khan on Tuesday claimed that he advised the anchorperson to leave Pakistan because of “threats to his life”.
Addressing a lawyers’ convention at Nishtar Hall in Peshawar, the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) chief said that the journalist was “martyred for speaking the truth”. “When Arshad Sharif started receiving threats from unknown numbers for exposing the regime change conspiracy, I asked him to leave the country,” Mr Khan claimed.
He said at first the journalist refused to leave the country, but he left upon his advice. He said he told the slain journalist that he got information the same way he had received the information about a plot to kill him. “No matter what the people say about the murder of Mr Sharif, it is an act of targeted killing,” he said.
Mr 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.
Ex-PM says he advised anchorperson to leave Pakistan because of ‘threats to life’
“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 target killing. No matter what people say, I know this was target killing,” Dawn.com quoted Imran Khan as saying.
Mr Khan paid tribute to journalist Sharif, calling him “a brave patriot who never compromised his conscience”. He also spoke about his immense respect and admiration for the journalist.
He said he 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 forgave 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,” Dawn.com further reported.
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,” Mr Khan was quoted by Dawn.com as claiming.
“I have decided to face these oppressors till his death and you all have to participate in it,” he said about his long march on Islamabad. According to the former premier, there was a certain person in Islamabad, whom he dubbed ‘Dirty Harry’, allegedly torturing people and stripping them naked.
Later, in an address to the Oxford Union, a prestigious debating society which features prominent speakers from across the globe, Mr Khan said, “Not one journalist was persecuted or even muzzled by my government. I had nothing to hide so why would I be afraid of the press?”
When asked to speak about the abductions that took place when he was prime minister, the PTI leader said, “When we found out about Matiullah Jan’s abduction by security agencies, he was released immediately. Absar Alam was shot because of a personal dispute. My government did not clamp down on any journalist. Anything like that had to do with the security forces.”
He alleged that the abuse meted out to journalists was done by security agencies. “They felt their soldiers’ lives were being endangered, so they would take harsh action against those criticising them. The two or three times we found out when journalists were picked up, it was never from the political government.”
Mr Khan said security forces across the world became accustomed to high-handed tactics because of the war on terror.
Atika Rehman in London also contributed to this report
Published in Dawn, October 26th, 2022