ISLAMABAD: The jud­i­cial magistrate of Islam­abad shelved the murder case of journalist Arshad Sharif on Wednesday since no prosecution witness had attended the trial proceedings so far.

Muhammad Abbas Shah, a civil judge-cum-judicial magistrate, had issued non-bailable arrest warrants to all prosecution witnesses, including the wife of Arshad Sharif, for not appearing before the court to record their statements in the murder case.

The judge had directed the witnesses to record their statements on Sept 19.

But no witness appeared before the court on the appointed date.

Subsequently, the judge stopped further proceedings.

Judge cites lack of interest by prosecution witnesses as reason for decision

Judge Muhammad Abbas stated: “Per­usal of record reveals that in the instant case, Challan under section 512 of the Criminal Procedure Code was received on March 16, 2023, and the prosecution witnesses were summoned for April 5.

“Thereafter, repeated summons were issued to the prosecution witnesses, but none of them appeared before the court for record of evidence, which shows lack of interest of prosecution in recording of evidence in the instant case,” read the court order.

It went on to state: “Needless to mention that more than 15 opportunities were given to the prosecution to produce evidence.”

The court order stated the public prosecutor had conceded in his statement that private, as well as official witnesses, were not turning up for evidence and suggested that the case may be “filed to record”.

The judge concluded: “In view of the above, proceeding of the instant case is hereby stopped.”

He stated, however, that “the prosecution is at liberty to apply for fixation of date when the prosecution produces all the prosecution witnesses on any date”.

Arshad Sharif had left Pakistan in August last year after a number of cases were registered against him. It was believed that he initially stayed in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and then he went on to Kenya, where he was shot dead by police under mysterious circumstances.

Initially, the Kenyan media had quoted police as saying Mr Sharif was shot dead in a case of “mistaken identity”.

But later reports from the Kenyan media reconstructed the events surrounding the killing, stating that an occupant in Mr Sharif’s car at the time of his killing was believed to have shot at personnel of the General Service Unit, a paramilitary outfit.

Team sent to Kenya

The Pakistan government subsequently dispatched a joint investigation team (JIT) to Kenya to investigate the killing. But it could not investigate the murder since there was no treaty for cooperation between the two countries.

The Supreme Court was told that the government was preparing the draft of a mutual legal assistance (MLA) agreement in the Arshad Sharif case to formally ask Kenyan authorities to allow access to suspects in the journalist’s killing.

The apex court expressed displeasure in March over release to the media of an initial report of a fact-finding committee into Arshad Sharif’s killing. The report had concluded that the journalist’s murder was a “planned, targeted assassination” which purportedly involved “transnational characters”.

In June this year, the mother of the slain journalist filed an application before the Supreme Court to include PTI Chairman Imran Khan and four other people in the investigation.

Published in Dawn, September 21st, 2023

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