TOO many questions are swirling around the tragic killing of senior journalist Arshad Sharif in Kenya late on Sunday. And unless they are answered, by the Kenyan authorities as well as our own administration, the truth about Mr Sharif’s killing may never be unveiled, and those responsible for his death will not be brought to justice.
As per the Kenyan police, the late TV anchor was travelling as a passenger in a vehicle which failed to stop at a roadblock. The police, who were searching for a stolen car according to the official version, opened fire, resulting in the death of Mr Sharif.
Kenyan law enforcers say it was a case of ‘mistaken identity’. But it needs to be explained why lethal force was used when the automobile failed to pull over, and why officers shot the late journalist in the head.
Arshad Sharif had been in self-imposed exile since August after an arrest warrant had been issued for him, following a controversial interview the anchor had conducted with PTI leader Shahbaz Gill, while he had been critical of the establishment since Imran Khan’s government was ousted in April.
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has urged the Kenyan president to ensure that a thorough probe is conducted, while on Tuesday the PM said a judicial commission would be formed to investigate the killing. The need for a transparent probe is all the more important since Mr Khan’s claim that Arshad Sharif was the victim of a “targeted killing”, and that the slain journalist had been receiving threats.
Moreover, the military too has also called for a high-level investigation to put speculation to rest, and end the ‘smear campaign’ against the institution. It is hoped that the state goes beyond words and commits to uncovering the truth behind the killing.
Apart from what transpired in Kenya, the circumstances that led to his exit from Pakistan must also be examined. Clearly, the climate in Pakistan was such that the late anchor did not feel safe staying here.
The fact is that our record when it comes to protecting journalists is far from satisfactory. According to Unesco’s figures, 85 journalists have been killed in Pakistan since 1993, with hardly any of the perpetrators of these crimes being punished. Every threat to journalists must be taken seriously, while those who threaten the media fraternity must face justice to end this climate of impunity.
Published in Dawn, October 26th, 2022