The federal cabinet, on the request of the Ministry of Defence, has approved the constitution of a three-member commission to "inquire into the facts" of the death of journalist Arshad Sharif.

The commission — led by Justice Abdul Shakoor Paracha and comprising Additional Inspector General of Police Usman Anwar and Intelligence Bur­eau (IB) Deputy Director General Omar Shahid Hamid — has been formed under the Pakistan Commission of Inquiry Act, 2017, an official notification available with Dawn.com said.

It stated that after Sharif's death, the Ministry of Defence proposed a "highest-level inquiry" into the incident in collaboration with the government of Kenya to "ascertain the facts".

"Moreover, post this incident, unnecessary rumor-mongering, virulent speculations and smear campaign has been launched against the armed forces."

To conduct an inquiry into the matter, the notification said, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif directed that a commission be formed. It will submit its report to the government within 30 days and be provided with "secretarial support" by the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA).

The development comes after the military requested the government to conduct a “high-level investigation” into the “accidental” killing of journalist Arshad Sharif.

In an interview last week, Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Director General (DG) Major General Babar Iftikhar said: "We have requested the government to hold a high-level investigation so that all the speculations can be put to rest."

Earlier, the government also formed a team to probe the killing. Initially, a three-member body, comprising Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) director Athar Wahid, IB's Omar Shahid Hamid and Lt Col Saad Ahmed of Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) was formed. Later, the team’s size was cut from three to two with the exclusion of the ISI official.

According to a Dawn report on Monday, the team — which is currently in Kenya — met Khurram Ahmed, who was driving the vehicle carrying the slain journalist and his brother Waqar Ahmed in the Kenyan capital at the time of the killing. But there was no confirmation from either the IB or the FIA that the committee had questioned them.

The killing

Sharif was shot dead in Kenya allegedly by the local police on the night of October 23, with an official police statement later expressing “regrets on the unfortunate incident” and saying an investigation was underway.

Initially, the Kenyan media quoted the local police as saying Sharif was shot dead by police in a case of “mistaken identity”.

However, reports from the Kenyan media later reconstructed the events surrounding the killing, stating that an occupant in Sharif’s car at the time of his killing was believed to have shot at paramilitary General Service Unit (GSU) officers.

“They were stopped by GSU officers who, according to the police, were responding to reports that a stolen vehicle had been sighted in the area,” a report by Nation Media Group said.

The report noted contradictory versions of police that earlier claimed Sharif and his brother defied orders at a checkpoint but later alleged that Sharif’s brother “shot at” one officer and injured him. It quoted police as saying that the incident prompted police to shoot back.

Sharif’s body arrived in Pakistan last week. It was buried at Islamabad's H-9 graveyard after a post-mortem at the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences.

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