• Sees no role of ‘establishment’
• Fears bloodshed in ‘long march’
• Ex-minister’s PTI membership suspended, show-caused over ‘anti-party’ presser
• Govt reconstitutes probe panel
ISLAMABAD: Hours after the government reconstituted the inquiry committee meant to probe the killing of TV anchor Arshad Sharif in Kenya, senior Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) leader Faisal Vawda, during an explosive presser on Wednesday, said the military establishment is “not involved” in the tragic incident and that the “plan was hatched” inside Pakistan.
Since the journalist was shot dead in Nairobi on Sunday night, social media was abuzz with allegations of involvement of the powers that be in the incident. Chief of the armed forces’ media wing had on Tuesday called for action against the elements making such allegations without evidence, and said the military had asked the government to probe the killing to put the speculations to rest.
During his urgently called press conference at the National Press Club, which was surprisingly also telecast by the state-run Pakistan Television, Mr Vawda predicted “bloodshed” of several innocent people as well as some prominent PTI leaders during the party’s long march being launched from Lahore on Friday.
However, a number of PTI leaders reacted strongly to their fellow’s claims, accusing him of sabotaging the long march. Later, the PTI suspended party membership of Faisal Vawda and sought explanation about his press conference within two days.
At the presser, the former minister claimed that there were some “enemies in the guise of friends” who had misguided Arshad to leave the country although the anchor had “good relations” with the military establishment and there was no threat to his life at home.
“I have already informed Imran Khan about the enemies in the guise of friends and those within the party who believe in a conspiracy theory,” he added.
He also claimed the journalist was killed from a close range or from within the vehicle in which he was travelling. “Nobody will find Arshad’s mobile phone and laptop as all evidences have been eliminated,” he claimed without elaborating how he got this information.
Mr Vawda also feared he could be killed after exposing the “enemies pretending to be friends”, adding if he was ‘eliminated’ his killers would meet the same fate. “I have recorded a video, spent millions of rupees and named them so they will also be killed if I am assassinated,” he stated.
“The establishment has nothing to do with Arshad’s killing as he was in contact with them and enjoyed good relations with it. He was brainwashed under a conspiracy… he was misguided,” he added.
The PTI leader also claimed he was in touch with the slain journalist since he flew out of the country and it was untrue that he was forced out of the UAE at the behest of someone in Pakistan.
“In fact, his [Arshad’s] visa had expired, which is why he had to leave that country. He was ready to return to Pakistan but was threatened that he will be killed if did so,” he added.
Mr Vawda further alleged some influential people were involved in Arshad’s departure and provided him accommodation at a farmhouse, some 200km from the Kenyan capital of Nairobi.
Talking about his party’s long march, he warned people that many PTI supporters could be killed during the protest move. He claimed he was well-informed because of his international contacts, adding a conspiracy was being hatched in the guise of the narrative of a peaceful long march. “Those hatching the conspiracy are in Pakistan, but connected internationally,” he alleged.
Mr Vawda also claimed to have shared all the information about the possible bloodshed and conspiracy with PTI Chairman Imran Khan and could also share it with the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and Military Intelligence.
Following the press conference, some PTI leaders criticised Mr Vawda for attempting to damage the long march. “Faisal Vawda’s statement does not represent party policy and views. President Sindh has been told on the instructions of the chairman Imran Khan, to issue show cause notice to Faisal for violating party policy,” PTI leader Asad Umar tweeted.
PTI Sindh President Ali Zaidi also tweeted: “Vawda tried to damage our long march. Interestingly all channels+ PTV covered the presser so it’s clear that imported government launched him. But he made no sense. When Imran Khan has clearly issued instructions for all to remain peaceful, what weight does his presser carry.”
Reconstitution of probe body
Earlier in the day, the country’s premier intelligence body opted to quit the team formed to investigate into the mysterious murder of anchor Arshad Sharif,
In a late-night development on Tuesday, the prime minister had formed a three-member team comprising Federal Investigation Agency Director Athar Wahid, IB Deputy Director General Omar Shahid Hamid and Lt Col Saad Ahmed from the ISI to probe into all aspects of the murder that took place in Nairobi.
However, the Interior Ministry issued a fresh notification on Wednesday, excluding the ISI official’s name from the team. The notification did not elaborate the reason behind the exclusion.
The two-member team will travel to Kenya immediately, the notification said, adding the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Pakistan’s High Commission in Nairobi, Kenya will facilitate the committee members.
Later on Wednesday, according to the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences, an eight-member team of senior doctors conducted the journalist’s postmortem.
Meanwhile, PTI Senator Ejaz Chaudhry strongly rebuffed Faisal Vawda’s statements.
Mr Chaudhry was speaking at a hurriedly called news conference at the chief minister’s secretariat in Lahore. The senator said the long march would be peaceful and would be attended by families and common people. “Everyone knows whose game Faisal Vawda is playing, as party Chairman Imran Khan has given complete awareness to the masses,” he stated.
Questioning the reason Vawda’s press conference was telecast across news channels, including the state-run PTV, he said it was a clear indication that it was “scripted and part of a plan”.
The senator said the long march would move in the day and stay in the night at different locations en route to Islamabad. “No one can now stop the peaceful protest march,” he added.
Mansoor Malik in Lahore also contributed to this report.
Published in Dawn, October 27th, 2022