SC directs govt to form new JIT to probe Arshad Sharif's killing

Published December 7, 2022
<p>A file photo of slain journalist Arshad Sharif. — Arshad Sharif/Facebook page</p>

A file photo of slain journalist Arshad Sharif. — Arshad Sharif/Facebook page

The Supreme Court on Wednesday directed the government to constitute a new special joint investigation team (JIT) comprising intelligence officials to probe the killing of journalist Arshad Sharif in Kenya.

The apex court issued the directives while hearing the suo motu case on Sharif’s killing. Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Umar Ata Bandial said the JIT should include officials from the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), the Intelligence Bureau (IB), the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) and the police.

The SC said that the first information report (FIR) of the case, which was registered a day earlier, was brief as an investigation had not taken place and there were no eyewitnesses.

The court directed the government to issue a notification and inform it about the members of the JIT by tomorrow, adding that the probe should be conducted by senior officers.

The members of the JIT should also be experts in understanding the case and gathering evidence from other countries, the court said. It also asked the foreign affairs ministry to assist the JIT in collecting evidence.

“The court has not formed a judicial commission as it is a criminal case,” CJP Bandial observed during the hearing, adding that the investigation should begin from Khurram and Waqar, the two men Sharif was in contact with in Kenya.

Ahead of today’s hearing, copy of the report compiled by the fact-finding committee was also submitted. The report, a copy of which is available with Dawn.com, is 592 pages long and bears the signatures of FIA Director Muhammad Athar Waheed and Intelligence Bureau (IB) Deputy Director General Omar Shahid Hamid.

A five-member bench, comprising CJP Bandial, Justice Ijazul Ahsan, Justice Jamal Mandokhel, Justice Syed Mazahar Ali Akbar Naqvi and Justice Mohammad Ali Mazhar presided over the hearing.

Sharif’s mother Riffat Ara Alvi and his widow were present for the hearing, along with the FIA director general, the information secretary and the Islamabad police chief.

At the outset of the hearing, the interior ministry presented the fact-finding report. The first information report (FIR) registered on Tuesday of the journalist’s killing was also presented.

Additional Attorney General (AAG) Aamir Rehman said the investigating team had received information from Kenyan authorities. The team also met three of the officials who fired at Sharif, he said, adding that a meeting with the fourth could not be arranged as he was injured.

The AAG further said that the government was trying to arrange a meeting with the relevant minister and the cabinet secretary. “The high commission in Kenya is in contact with the relevant authorities,” he said.

At this, Justice Ahsan asked about the identity of the alleged shooters. The AAG replied that they were allegedly Kenyan police officials.

Justice Mazhar pointed out that the report submitted to the court did not contain what the officials had told the investigating team from Pakistan.

“The court was provided the report at 1am,” the CJP remarked. He pointed out that the real evidence of the case was in Kenya, adding that the matter had to be taken up with Kenyan authorities.

Justice Naqvi lamented that the name of the Kenyan police officials who had shot at Sharif were also not disclosed in the report. “Why was a case not registered against the officials who fired [on Sharif]?” he asked.

The AAG told the court that it would have to be assessed if a case could be registered against foreigners. Rehman further said the inquiry report would become a part of the case record.

“This is a very serious matter. We are warning the government to also take it seriously,” Justice Naqvi remarked.

Taking the stand, Sharif’s mother contended that she did not want another mother to go through she had experienced. She also thanked the CJP for taking suo motu notice of her son’s killing.

“We were working on this case for a month,” the CJP said. “There is no need for thanks. The court is carrying out its duty,” he added.

Sharif’s mother told the court that the fact-finding report detailed how her son was first made to leave Pakistan and then Dubai. She further said that her son was receiving death threats. “I only want justice for my son,” she said.

The CJP called on the government to investigate her claims from all angles. The court directed the officials concerned to record the statement of Sharif’s mother.

During the hearing, Justice Mandokhel pointed out that a female activist was killed last year in Canada. “If that case had been investigated, then maybe such a thing would not have happened with a Pakistani national in a foreign country,” he said.

“It is unfortunate that we only spring into action after an incident takes place,” Justice Mandokhel remarked.

The hearing of the case was subsequently adjourned till tomorrow (Thursday).

SC invokes suo motu jurisdiction

The top court on Tuesday invoked its suo motu jurisdiction on an application filed by the journalist’s mother. The five-member SC bench came down hard on the government on Tuesday for not submitting the fact-finding report or registering a FIR of the incident.

The SC directed the interior secretary to ensure the registration of a first information report (FIR) and also sought a fact-finding report from the additional attorney general for Pakistan.

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.

Later the same day, police registered a FIR on the complaint of a station house officer, mentioning that Inspector Mian M. Shahbaz along with other officials, acting on the information, reached Pims on October 26 and found the body of 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.

The killing

Sharif had left Pakistan in August after a number of cases were registered against him. It was reported that he was initially staying in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) after which he went to Kenya, where he was shot dead.

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

But later reports from the Kenyan media 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.

The Pakistan government subsequently formed a team that travelled to Kenya to investigate the killing.

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