ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Tuesday expressed displeasure over release to the media of the initial report of a fact-finding committee into the killing of journalist Arshad Sharif.

“This was done deliberately,” regretted Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Umar Ata Bandial, adding that people were careless and negligent in the execution of their duty.

The CJP asked Attorney General (AGP) Mansoor Usman Awan to take up the matter with the authorities concerned so that the person behind the release of the report was found out.

The report was leaked probably by those who retain its possession, Justice Bandial observed.

The observations came after the AGP explained that the Kenyan authorities were upset over release of the findings.

The court is playing the role of a facilitator since Arshad Sharif was a well-known journalist, the CJP said, adding the court would protect journalists because freedom of expression was a fundamental right under the Constitution.

Justice Sayyed Mazahar Ali Akbar Naqvi said it was the court’s responsibility to ensure justice was done in the case.

Additional Attorney General (AAG) Chaudhry Aamir Rehman told the court the Punjab Forensic Laboratory in Lahore had concluded that unsigned report was released to the media and not the five signed ones.

The fact-finding report had concluded that the murder of journalist Arshad Sharif was a “planned, targeted assassination” which purportedly involved “transnational characters”.

The CJP observed the fact-finding report actually did bring material and even interviewed the persons accused of the killing by reaching out to them. “But then Kenyan authorities became non-responsive and non-cooperative,” the CJP regretted.

Before adjourning further proceedings to June 13, the CJP ordered the AGP to furnish reports supported with documents. He also said it must be ensured that a limited number of people visit Kenya since the country was short of foreign exchange.

The AGP was asked to carry out research for engaging the best Kenyan counsel within a limited budget for trial at Kenyan courts.

Justice Muhammad Ali Mazhar said the report should include a request to Interpol to issue red warrants against two Pakistani hosts in Kenya — Waqar and Khurram, request for Mutual Legal Assistance (MLA) to Kenya and information regarding progress of investigation against those involved in the killing.

Justice Ijazul Ahsan wondered whether the FIA had started the process to ensure that red warrants were issued by Interpol for the arrest of two Pakistanis in Kenya who had hosted the journalist.

Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui, representing the mother and the first wife of Arshad Sharif, requested the court to allow him to read the fact-finding report as well as reports by the SJIT.

The attorney general assured the court that SJIT would leave for Kenya on May 17, but not before getting assurance of cooperation by Kenyan authorities.

When Justice Mazhar wondered whether any proceedings had been initiated against the two Kenyan police officials said to have been involved in the assassination of Arshad Shari.

The AGP replied that Kenyan authorities had initiated trial against police officials after charging them with for manslaughter.

Published in Dawn, May 10th, 2023

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