ISLAMABAD: The investigation into the murder of journalist Arshad Sharif has apparently hit a snag after the interior ministry and Kenyan Embassy turned down the investigators’ requests for facilitation.

The special joint investigation team (SJIT) requested the interior ministry to release funds for its visit to Dubai and Kenya — the destinations Mr Sharif traveled to before his killing — but the request was turned down, sources close to the SJIT told Dawn.

They added that a request for Rs10 million — to cover travel and accommodation costs — was made for the five members’ visit to the two countries, but the ministry rejected the request, citing the Centre’s ban on foreign visits of government officials.

A spokesman for the interior ministry has also confirmed the development, citing a “blanket ban” on government officials’ foreign trips.

Kenya turns down probe team’s request for meeting with police officers

The finance ministry has neither approved nor released funds for the visit due to the ban, the ministry said in its reply to a written request submitted by the SJIT convener, Islamabad’s Deputy Inspector General Headquarters, Awais Ahmed, sources said.

The funds can only be released by the finance ministry after the Cabinet Division’s approval, the interior ministry told the investigators, and asked them to re-appropriate funds from the police budget, the sources added.

The ministry’s spokesperson confirmed that a summary was received and forwarded to the finance ministry with a recommendation to release funds by relaxing the rules.

He said if the request was approved by the finance ministry, it would be forwarded to the prime minister for final consent.

However, the SJIT sources said no further request for funds has been made while the decision to use the police budget for the visits was yet to be made.

Kenyan Embassy turns down request

In a related development, the Kenyan Embassy has turned down the investigators’ request to arrange meetings with police officers linked to the case.

The SJIT had planned to visit Kenya during the first week of January and had approached the embassy through the Foreign Officer for visas and meetings, as per the sources.

However, the embassy turned down the request stating that the officers related to the case are on New Year’s holidays and likely to return to duty after January 15.

After January 15, the SJIT will make a fresh request through the FO for visas and meetings, the sources said.

DIG Ahmed, who is also in-charge of Islamabad police’s public relations, was approached for comments, but he didn’t respond despite repeated attempts.

The matter is likely to be discussed in the Supreme Court when it resumes the hearing of the case related to Arshad Sharif’s killing, on Thursday (Jan 5).

On Dec 8, the SC ordered the formation of the SJIT to probe the murder and ensure effective foreign liaison and evidence collection in national and overseas jurisdictions.

A five-judge SC bench, headed by Chief Justice (CJP) Umar Ata Bandial, had initiated suo motu proceedings for an independent and transparent investigation into the murder.

While hearing the case, the CJP remarked that in case the SJIT experienced any issues in the pursuit of its task, it may directly approach his office.

Additional Attorney General Chaudhry Aamir Rehman, during the hearing, stated that necessary funds and support will be provided to the team.

He also assured the court that the Foreign Office will be requested to facilitate coordination for visas and assistance in the foreign jurisdiction.

Published in Dawn, January 4th, 2023

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