The Islamabad police on Tuesday registered a first information report (FIR) against the murder of journalist Arshad Sharif — who was shot dead in Kenya — on orders of the Supreme Court.
The complaint was lodged by the station house officer (SHO) of the Ramna police station, Rasheed Ahmed, and nominated three persons — Waqar Ahmed, Khurram Ahmed, and Tariq Ahmed Wasi.
The FIR, a copy of which is available with Dawn.com, invoked sections 302 (punishment for murder) and 34 (acts done by several persons in furtherance of common intention) of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC).
It stated that the murder took place in Kenya on October 23. The complainant said that he reached the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (Pims) 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.
Reacting to the development, Sharif’s wife Javeria Siddique questioned why the case was registered on the complaint of the police when the slain journalist’s family members were still alive.
She said that the FIR could only be lodged by her mother-in-law (Sharif’s mother).
SC directs govt to register FIR, seeks inquiry report
Earlier today, the Supreme Court, while taking suo notice of the “brutal killing” of journalist Arshad Sharif, directed the government to register a first information report (FIR) by tonight.
A larger bench, headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Umar Ata Bandial and comprising Justice Ijazul Ahsan, Justice Jamal Mandokhail, Justice Sayyed Mazahar Ali Akbar Naqvi and Justice Mohammad Ali Mazhar, heard the case.
“The FIR should be registered by tonight,” CJP Bandial remarked as the court directed the authorities concerned to submit a copy to the court by tomorrow (Wednesday).
The court also sought the inquiry report of the committee formed by the government to probe the killing, adjourning the hearing till tomorrow.
During the hearing, the CJP wondered why the court had not yet been provided the report by the fact-finding committee. “Why has it not been provided to the court as yet?” the CJP asked.
The additional attorney general informed the court that Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah was in Faisalabad when the report was received. “The report will be handed over to the SC once Sanaullah peruses it,” he said.
“Does the interior minister have to make changes to the report?” the CJP asked, adding that the court could summon Sanaullah. It is the government’s job to investigate not the judiciary’s, he said.
“A journalist was killed. It should be revealed who was behind the killing,” the CJP remarked, adding that the fact-finding committee which had travelled to Kenya had been back in Pakistan for some time. “Why has the final report of the government formed commission not been provided to the SC?”
The additional attorney general responded by saying the report would be submitted by tomorrow. However, the CJP told him to submit it today so the hearing could continue tomorrow.
“[We] have been waiting for the report for the past 43 days,” CJP Bandial said, terming Sharif’s medical report to be “unsatisfactory”. “We are taking the matter seriously. That is why a five-judge bench was constituted.”
Justice Ahsan remarked that Sharif was killed in Kenya under “suspicious circumstances”. “What action has the foreign ministry taken?” he asked.
Foreign Secretary Asad Majeed replied that the premier had contacted the Kenyan president in this regard. “The Pakistani High Commissioner in Kenya is in touch with the relevant authorities,” he said.
Justice Ahsan then asked whether it was true that a case had not yet been registered in Pakistan or in Kenya.
The foreign secretary responded by saying that he was not aware whether a case had been registered in Pakistan and would check with the Kenyan authorities regarding the same.
“Why was a case of Arshad Sharif’s killing not registered?” the CJP questioned, to which the foreign secretary said that a decision in this regard would be taken after the inquiry report was reviewed.
The court then asked the Foreign Office to submit a response to the court regarding the investigation and the registration of a FIR in Kenya.
“Journalists are the voice of truth. It is journalists who are a source of information,” the CJP remarked. He noted that Sharif was a renowned journalist, adding that the matter under consideration was of “human life”.
The top judge further said, “We are ready to cooperate with the Pakistan government in Kenya.”
The CJP observed that the nation had apprehensions regarding Sharif’s killing and asserted that all facts would have to be brought to light.
Apex court takes suo motu notice
Earlier in the day the CJP had taken suo motu notice of Sharif’s “brutal killing”.
The development came three days after PTI chief Imran Khan penned a letter to CJP Bandial, asking him to conduct an independent judicial inquiry into the killing of Sharif, who was shot dead in Kenya on Oct 24.
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif had announced last month that a judicial commission would be formed to probe the matter and subsequently wrote a letter to the CJP regarding this.
“The journalist community in the country and the public at large are deeply distressed and are concerned about the death of the senior journalist and are seeking the court’s scrutiny of the matter,” the statement said.
It added that notices had been issued to the interior secretary, foreign affairs secretary, information and broadcasting secretary, the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) director general (DG), the Intelligence Bureau (IB) DG and the president of the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ).
Imran and other PTI leaders have been demanding an investigation into the “targeted killing” of the renowned journalist, claiming that he was forced to leave Pakistan for the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and later the Gulf region as well — where he had stayed for a short time before heading to Kenya.
The Foreign Office has, however, dismissed these claims.
Sharif’s mother had also penned a letter to the CJP on November 2, requesting the formation of a high-powered judicial commission to investigate the murder.
Politicians welcomed the SC’s decision to take suo motu notice of Sharif’s killing, highlighting the apex court’s role in protecting human rights.
PTI leader Fawad Chaudhry hailed the decision, saying: “The people expect the SC and the judges to stand up for basic human rights despite pressure for the sovereignty of the Constitution, and to protect human rights.”
Awami Muslim League (AML) chief Sheikh Rashid Ahmed also welcomed the development, predicting that several “hidden faces” would be unmasked during the trial.
“The nation is also looking towards the SC regarding the attack on Imran Khan and the Azam Swati case.” He advised the coalition government to prepare for the next general election instead of working on disqualifying the PTI chief.
PM Shehbaz, while speaking at an event organised by Islamabad Journalist Safety Forum moments before the SC’s statement was released, said he had spoken to the Kenyan president regarding Sharif’s killing.
He said Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari had been in contact with the authorities concerned, while he himself had spoken to agencies in Pakistan for speedy action. “I have also written a letter to the CJP to constitute a commission [to probe the case] and I hope action will be taken in this regard.”
The premier also stated that no journalist or human rights defender should be attacked for exercising freedom of expression guaranteed under the Constitution.
In a tweet later in the day, he reiterated the same, saying he welcomed the SC taking suo motu notice.
“I had already written a letter to the honorable chief justice of Pakistan for setting up a judicial commission to probe the murder,” he highlighted, adding that the government would extend full cooperation to the court.
Retorting to the premier’s tweet, Sharif’s wife Javeria Siddique said that her husband was “forced to leave Pakistan in August 2022” because of the “scary intimidation tactics of the government and registration of FIRs under so-called treason and sedition charges”.
“You’re talking about press freedom, really,” she tweeted.
In another tweet, she asked: “Who filed cases against the journalist across the country, harassed him, and then got him killed him in Kenya?”
Sharif had left Pakistan in August after a number of cases were registered against him. It was reported that he was initially staying in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) after which he went to Kenya, where he was shot dead.
Initially, Kenyan media had quoted the local police as saying 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 (GSU) officers.
The Pakistan government subsequently formed a team that travelled to Kenya to investigate the killing.