Journalist Arshad Sharif died in Kenya reportedly after being shot, his wife Javeria Siddique confirmed early on Monday morning.
“I lost friend, husband and my favorite journalist [Arshad Sharif] today, as per police he was shot in Kenya,” she tweeted. Confirming the journalist’s demise, the Foreign Office said Pakistan’s high commissioner to Kenya, along with other officials, reached Chiromo Funeral House in Nairobi where she identified Sharif’s body.
“Further procedures including police report are awaited,” the statement said. The high commission would facilitate the early return of Sharif’s body to Pakistan, the Foreign Office said, adding that the journalist’s family had been assured of all possible assistance.
Mystery surrounds the circumstances that led to the journalist’s death. Some Pakistani media outlets initially reported Sharif had been shot at but then said he died in an accident. Sharif’s wife later tweeted he had been shot dead.
Meanwhile, Kenyan media quoted the local police as saying Sharif was shot dead by police in a case of “mistaken identity”. It said the incident took place on Sunday night along the Nairobi-Magadi highway.
Talking to the media after visiting Sharif’s house later in the day, Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb said Sharif was shot at a police checkpoint at an hour’s distance from Nairobi.
“He was traveling with a man named Khurram Ahmed […] the car was driven by a local. It is being said that they refused to stop at the police check post,” she said. However, drifting off, the minister added that “we can’t say anything until and unless all these details are shared by the Kenyan government”.
Sharif, who was a fierce critic of the incumbent government and the country’s military establishment, had left Pakistan earlier this year after sedition cases were registered against him in different cities.
IHC instructs officials to meet Sharif’s family
Islamabad High Court (IHC) Chief Justice Athar Minallah, while hearing a petition seeking an inquiry into Sharif’s death, instructed representatives from the foreign and interior ministries to immediately meet the journalist’s family.
The court also issued notices to the federal and interior secretaries.
The petition filed by Advocate Shoaib Razzaq, a copy of which is available with Dawn.com, requested the court to order the formation of a judicial commission to investigate why the journalist was forced to flee Pakistan, and later the United Arab Emirates.
“The judicial commission may also be directed to liaison with national agencies and the Kenyan agencies and probe into the heinous act which had led to the unwarranted cold-blooded murder of Arshad Sharif,” the petition stated.
It also requested the court to issue directives for bringing the journalist’s body back to Pakistan.
Sharif ‘paid ultimate price for speaking truth’: Imran
The former prime minister and PTI Chairman Imran Khan said he was shocked at Sharif’s death.
He said the journalist had “paid the ultimate price for speaking the truth – his life. He had to leave the country & be in hiding abroad but he continued to speak the truth on social media, exposing the powerful. Today the entire nation mourns his death.”
Imran called for an investigation into Sharif’s death using the journalist’s statements as well as other evidence. “We have descended into a state of brutality, unknown in civilized society, indulged in by the powerful against those who dare to criticize & expose wrongdoing,” he added.
The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) said that there was a “long, grim record of violent tactics to silence journalists” which is why Sharif’s death sent shockwaves throughout the journalist community. It also urged the government to pursue an immediate, transparent inquiry into the circumstances of his death.
President Dr. Arif Alvi termed Sharif’s death a loss for journalism and Pakistan. “May his soul rest in peace and may his family, which includes his followers, have the strength to bear this loss,” Alvi said. Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif said he was deeply saddened. He offered condolences and prayers for the journalist’s family. The military’s public affairs wing also issued a condolence message on what it said was the “unexpected death” of the senior journalist.
“May Allah raise the ranks of Arshad Sharif,” the Inter-Services Public Relations statement said. It also prayed for “courage and fortitude for Sharif’s family in this moment of grief”. Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari strongly condemned Sharif’s killing. “Deepest condolences to his family and loved ones who are in my thoughts and prayers, while they grapple with this sudden loss,” he said.
“My brother, my friend, my colleague Arshad Shareef was shot dead in Kenya … I still can’t believe it. It’s beyond heartbreaking. This is just wrong … this is painful … I love u brother,” ARY News anchorperson Kashif Abbasi tweeted. “Unbelievable. May Allah rest the soul of Arshad Sharif in peace. Ameen,” journalist Hamid Mir tweeted.
PTI Secretary General Asad Umar and Senator Azam Swati also said they were shocked and devastated by the news of Sharif’s death. “#ArshadSharif Arys star investigative journalist, left #Pakistan so he could be safer abroad. Sadly he was killed while on a visit to #Kenya. This grave incident must be investigated both in #Pakistan &internationally. Have fond memories of my shows with him. May he rest in peace,” PPP MNA Nafisa Shah tweeted.
Cases against Sharif
Earlier this year, police had booked Sharif, ARY Digital Network President and CEO Salman Iqbal, Head of News and Current Affairs Ammad Yousaf, anchorperson Khawar Ghumman, and a producer for sedition over a controversial interview by PTI leader Dr. Shahbaz Gill broadcast on the channel on Aug 8.
A day later, the Interior Ministry had canceled the channel’s no-objection certificate citing “adverse reports from agencies” as the reason behind the decision — a decision that was later reversed after an order of the Sindh High Court.
The FIRs, which were registered in Hyderabad and Karachi, included Sections 131 (abetting mutiny, or attempting to seduce a soldier, sailor, or airman from his duty), 153 (wantonly giving provocation with intent to cause riot), and 505 (statements conducing to public mischief) of the Pakistan Penal Code.
The FIRs referred to Sharif’s comments in a conversation with journalist Matiullah Jan on his YouTube channel wherein he allegedly “disrespected” state institutions and uttered statements that attempted to “spread hate in the army and create a hateful atmosphere”.
Another FIR in Dadu, under PPC Sections 131, 153, and 505, mentioned Sharif and ARY News journalist Sabir Shakir. The FIR said that “derogatory language” regarding state institutions was used in a conversation between the two and analogies were drawn to Mir Jafar and Mir Sadiq. It added that the two were inciting people against the army and state institutions.
Subsequently, Sharif left the country.
The ARY Network later announced it had “parted ways” with Sharif without citing a specific reason but stating that it expects its employees’ conduct on social media to be in line with the company policy. The company, however, did not mention the social media post for which Sharif was let go. According to Bol TV, the journalist had joined the channel. However, the details of his program had not been announced.
Sharif is a part of an upcoming investigative documentary titled Behind Closed Doors that highlights the corruption of some elite Pakistani political figures and their families. It also looks into offshore leaks that revealed that politicians use the British financial system and offshore jurisdictions to launder, hide and re-invest their wealth into the global financial system.
Sharif was awarded the Pride of Performance by President Alvi in March 2019.