Trial court halts proceedings in Arshad Sharif murder case due to ‘lack of interest’ from prosecution
An Islamabad district and sessions court stopped proceedings in the case of journalist Arshad Sharif’s killing due to a “lack of interest” from the prosecution, it emerged today.
On September 9, a civil judge-cum-judicial magistrate had issued non-bailable arrest warrants against the spouse of the slain journalist — who was shot dead in Kenya in October last year — the producer of a private television channel, and other witnesses for repeatedly failing to appear before the court to record their statements in the case.
Reportedly, Judicial Magistrate Abbas Shah repeatedly summoned Sumiyya Arshad, producer Ali Usman, and other prosecution witnesses to record their testimony in the trial but due to their failure to appear before the court, warrants were issued.
In March this year, the judge had issued bailable arrest warrants against all the witnesses to procure the attendance but to no avail.
Sources privy to the court proceedings told Dawn that the judge was supposed to submit a report to the Supreme Court regarding the developments in the Arshad Sharif murder case, but the absence of witnesses was hampering the progress. Therefore, the warrants were issued to take the case to a logical conclusion, sources added.
However, speaking to a private TV channel, Summaiya had said she had not received the summons from the court and added that she learned about her warrants through media reports.
She said the case in which she was being summoned was not registered on the family’s complaint but on a complaint lodged by the state. The wife of the slain journalist said she only knew about the Supreme Court’s suo motu case regarding the murder of her husband and added that she was present and available on all of the dates in this regard.
During the hearing on Tuesday, the prosecution witnesses again failed to turn up, leading the judge to stop proceedings. In the order, a copy of which is available with Dawn.com, the judge said that the challan of the case was received by the court on March 16 while the prosecution witnesses were summoned on April 5.
“Thereafter, repeated summons were issued to the prosecution witnesses but none of them appeared before the court for recording of evidence which shows [a] lack of interest of [the] prosecution in recording of evidence in the instant case,” the order said.
“Needless to mention that more than 15 opportunities were given to the prosecution to produce evidence,” it said.
It said that a notice had been issued to the state during the previous hearing, inquiring why the case file should not be archived in the record room.
The order said the public prosecutor appeared and recorded his statement in which he said that “private as well as official witnesses of the instant case are not turning up for evidence, therefore, case may be filed”.
“In view of the above, proceeding of the instant case file is hereby stopped. Complainant/prosecution is at liberty to apply for fixation of date when the prosecution/complainant produce all the prosecution witnesses on any date,” the court ordered.
The judge directed that the completed case file be placed in the record room until further orders.
A fierce critic of the PDM government and the country’s military establishment, Sharif had left Pakistan in August 2022 after multiple cases of sedition were registered against him in different cities. It was reported that he initially stayed in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) after leaving Pakistan and later went to Kenya, where he was murdered.
Initial reports on his killing by the Kenyan media quoted local police as saying that 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 officers.
The Pakistan government subsequently formed a team that travelled to Kenya to investigate the killing. A progress report of the murder probe was furnished before the Supreme Court — which has taken suo motu notice of the case — in March.
The matter was also addressed in an unprecedented conference in October last year, where the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) chief Lt Gen Nadeem Ahmed Anjum had joined former Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) DG Lt Gen Babar Iftikhar to speak about the journalist’s killing.
The Islamabad police had registered the FIR against the murder on the orders of the Supreme Court in December 2022.
The complaint was lodged by the station house officer of the Ramna police station, Rasheed Ahmed, and nominated three persons — Waqar Ahmed, Khurram Ahmed, and Tariq Ahmed Wasi.
The FIR invoked Sections 302 (punishment for murder) and 34 (acts done by several persons in furtherance of common intention) of the Pakistan Penal Code.
It stated that the murder took place in Kenya on October 23. The complainant said that he reached the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences on the night of October 26 when Sharif’s body reached the hospital and a postmortem examination was carried out.
After that, he said the medico-legal officers handed over four parcels of evidence to the police.
The FIR added that according to the postmortem report, Sharif died due to the firing of ammunition.
Siddique had questioned then why the case was registered on the complaint of the police when the slain journalist’s family members were still alive. She had said that the FIR could only be lodged by her mother-in-law (Sharif’s mother).