ONE hopes that powerful quarters in Pakistan and abroad will not attempt to stonewall efforts to uncover the truth behind the brutal murder of journalist Arshad Sharif in Kenya last year. On Wednesday, the Islamabad Police provided an interim report to the Supreme Court, stating that a special joint investigation team, would leave for Kenya on Jan 15 to obtain a clear post-mortem report. This is a positive development as earlier it had been reported that the interior ministry had failed to release funds to the Supreme Court-appointed team that was to travel to the UAE and Kenya to carry out their probe. The reason for not releasing the funds had been that the federal government had placed a “blanket ban” on officials’ foreign trips. Meanwhile, the Kenyan embassy was also reported to have been reluctant to issue the necessary visas as the officers linked to the case were “on New Year’s holidays” and would not be available till Jan 15. That the investigation team is set to travel on Jan 15 indicates that this hurdle too has been cleared.
The interim report may have come as a relief but the excuses proffered earlier indicate that some elements do not want the perpetrators of the crime to be exposed. While the country’s dire financial situation indeed does not allow for public servants to fly off on foreign junkets, this is a very important case and needs to be pursued, especially since the highest offices in the land, including the prime minister and the chief justice, have called for a thorough investigation. The authorities need to underscore the significance of this case, and the fact that Pakistani investigators will need full access to Kenyan officers handling the investigation. This is particularly important when the initial fact-finding team, consisting of an IB and FIA officer, cast doubt on the official Kenyan version that Sharif was shot dead due to a case of “mistaken identity”. There are far too many unanswered questions about this murder, and in order to provide justice to the slain journalist’s family and ensure that those who persecute members of the media face the law, it is imperative that the probe team be facilitated. The report of the earlier investigation team filed with the Supreme Court says that the “transnational role of characters in Kenya, Dubai and Pakistan” in the killing cannot be ruled out. The public needs to know just who these characters are.
Published in Dawn, January 5th, 2023