• Journalist’s hosts in Kenya, others booked over assassination
• Govt reprimanded for ‘limited progress’ as CJP seeks fact-finding report
• Arshad’s widow takes issue with SHO being made complainant

ISLAMABAD: Police sprang into action on Tuesday, registering an FIR on Arshad Sharif’s murder on the directions of the Supreme Court — nearly six weeks after the journalist’s assassination.

The victim’s hosts in Kenya, Khuram Ahmed and Waqar Ahmed, along with some unidentified persons, were booked by the Ramna police for his murder on the complaint of SHO Rasheed Ahmed, just hours after the top court invoked its suo motu jurisdiction on an application filed by the journalist’s mother and directed the interior secretary to ensure the registration of an FIR. The court also sought a fact-finding report from the additional attorney general for Pakistan.

The five-member SC bench, which will resume hearing the case on Wednesday (today), came down hard on the government on Tuesday for not submitting the fact-finding report or registering an FIR of the incident.

Headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan Umar Ata Bandial, the bench comprised Justice Ijazul Ahsan, Justice Jamal Mandokhel, Justice Syed Mazahar Ali Akbar Naqvi and Justice Mohammad Ali Mazhar earlier summoned the secretaries of interior, foreign affairs, information and broadcasting, directors general of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) and Intelligence Bureau (IB) as well as president of Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) and asked about progress on the ongoing murder investigation.

The proceedings were initiated on the recommendation of Justice Ahsan and Justice Mazhar when CJP Bandial sent them the SC’s human rights cell report, based on the application of slain journalist’s mother seeking formation of a high-level commission to probe the murder, and sought their opinion to invoke the suo motu jurisdiction.

At the hearing, Justice Ahsan wondered how investigation would commence when even an FIR had not been registered.

“We have been waiting 43 days for the report,” CJP Bandial remarked.

Appearing before the bench, Interior Secretary Yousaf Naseem Khokhar apprised the court that a fact-finding committee constituted by the government had submitted its report to the federal government. Additional Attorney General Amir Rehman said Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah had been in Faisalabad on this weekend whereas the report was received on Dec 2 evening. He said the prime minister and law minister would also examine the report before its submission to the apex court.

The chief justice said: “A journalist was murdered; who killed him should be brought to light.” He said the government could introduce a law to proceed against a journalist for ‘concocted’ stories and legislate to strengthen defamatory, civil or criminal laws, but the apex court could not tolerate “vindictive approach for journalists”.

Foreign Secretary Asad Majeed earlier apprised the court of efforts to retrieve the body from Kenya and pursue the investigation, explaining that the Pakistani High Commissioner in Kenya was in touch with relevant authorities. He also recalled that Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif had spoken to the Kenyan president on the matter. However, he said he was unaware of the progress made in the investigation.

Before putting off the proceedings for a day, the bench directed the interior secretary to place a copy of the FIR before the court on Wednesday and sought the fact-finding report from the additional attorney general. The foreign secretary was also asked to submit a report on the “ongoing Kenyan investigation”.

Just hours after the court’s directions, police registered an FIR on the complaint of an SHO, mentioning that Inspector Mian M. Shahbaz along with other officials, acting on the information, reached Pims on October 26 and found the body of Arshad Sharif, a resident of Islamabad’s Sector G-11/3, there.

It said the body was brought from abroad. Following a post-mortem examination by a medical board, five sealed parcels, including one that contained a bullet, were handed over to the Ramna police and the body was handed over to the heirs, the FIR stated.

Since the journalist was killed abroad, an inquiry was under way at senior level, it said. However, the issue was recorded in the police diary and legal proceedings under Section 174 of the criminal procedure code were in progress, it said.

However, the slain journalist’s widow, Javeria Siddique, took issue with the FIR being lodged on the complaint of a police official. Taking to Twitter, she asked when a case would be registered on the complaint of the deceased’s family members.

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, meanwhile, in a tweet welcomed the SC decision to take suo motu notice, recalled he had already written a letter to the CJP for formation of a judicial commission to probe the journalist’s murder, and pledged that the government would extend full cooperation to court.

Published in Dawn, December 7th, 2022

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