ISLAMABAD: The Special Joint Investigation Team (SJIT), constituted to probe the tragic death of journalist Arshad Sharif in Kenya, furnished a progress report before the Supreme Court on Wednesday.

Though the contents of the report, which was kept in a sealed envelope, are confidential, it is believed that the SJIT is in the process of recording the statements of “a number of witnesses” and intends to visit Kenya again soon.

Headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Umar Ata Bandial, a five-judge SC bench had initiated suo motu proceedings to ensure transparent and independent investigation into the journalist’s murder. Other members of the bench are Justice Ijaz-ul-Ahsan, Justice Sayyed Mazahar Ali Akbar Naqvi, Justice Jamal Khan Mandokhail and Justice Muhammad Ali Mazhar.

While postponing further hearing until March, the Supreme Court had on Feb 13 ordered the SJIT to furnish its report within two weeks.

SJIT said to be recording further testimonies, may travel to Kenya again

The court during the last hearing had described the SJIT’s visit to the UAE and Kenya as “not productive” and that the last interim report on the matter had nothing positive in it.

In its last order, the court had ordered the SJIT to probe what had motivated Mr Sharif to leave Pakistan? The SJIT should also investigate the multiple FIRs lodged against the journalist and any sensitive information that may have been in his possession, the order said.

The investigation team will also probe as to why the Dubai authorities had ordered Mr Sharif to leave the UAE and that who had released the two-member committee’s fact-finding report and what was the reason behind it.

The SJIT’s previous report suggested that possibly the premature release of the fact-finding report, prepared by the two-member committee, had alarmed the Kenyan authorities.

Subsequently, the court had observed that it was not inclined at this stage to speculate on the reason behind the change in approach of the Kenyan government. Nevertheless, it said, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) while keeping in view the subtle formalities of foreign relations and the fact that Kenya is regarded a friendly state by Pakistan, will liaise with authorities in that country to ascertain the causes of the Kenyan reluctance to assist with the investigation and address these on a priority basis for smooth progress in the investigation.

The Supreme Court had also ordered MoFA to familiarise itself with the terms and conditions for requesting the United Nations’ assistance in case such a need arises.

The direction had come in response to the apex court’s suggestion that the UN may be involved in the investigation to ensure the Kenyan government’s cooperation. Then Additional Attorney General (AAG) Chaudhry Aamir Rehman had informed the court that proper diplomatic channel had been invoked under the Mutual Legal Assistance Act, 2011 for seeking the Kenyan government’s cooperation. Therefore, time may be given for that process to run its course before approaching the United Nations.

Earlier, the AAG had pointed out that Kenya had become reluctant to render assistance in the investigation and that the SJIT was not allowed to examine witnesses or inspect the crime scene during its visit to Kenya.

Published in Dawn, March 9th, 2023

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