Home Editorial Editorial: The Killing of Arshad Sharif

Editorial: The Killing of Arshad Sharif

It is unfortunate that a polarized Pakistan is unwilling to wait for the results of a probe before casting blame for shooting of journalist

by Editorial

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Pakistani journalist Arshad Sharif was killed on Oct. 23 by police in Kenya in what they have described as a case of “mistaken identity.” Prior to exiting ARY News over a still-unidentified social media post, Sharif hosted Power Play on the channel and had earlier served as the news director of AAJ News. Before that, he led the news team of Dunya News, also as news director, and was also employed with the Dawn Media Group at the start of his career. In 2019, he was awarded the Pride of Performance by President Arif Alvi for his contributions to journalism. He was also the winner of a 2012 Agahi Award and wrote for a number of international news agencies.

Kenyan authorities have claimed that police had set up a roadblock near Nairobi to locate a stolen car and abducted child and Sharif’s driver refused to stop and identify himself. As a result, they allege, police opened fire on the vehicle, killing Sharif. In the three days since Sharif was killed, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, especially its leader Imran Khan, have repeatedly alleged that rather than Kenyan police, it was Pakistan’s security establishment that had killed the journalist. Claiming that men of “agencies”—a common euphemism for Pakistan’s intelligence apparatus—had visited Sharif earlier this year and warned him to “behave himself,” Khan told a public event that it was he who had advised Sharif to leave Pakistan to avoid being harmed: “I had asked him to back down but he didn’t. He wasn’t scared of warnings and continued his work as a professional, independent journalist, but finally he was target-killed.”

Sharif had an Army background. His father, Commander Muhammad Sharif of the Pakistan Navy, died of a heart attack at the Armed Forces Institute of Cardiology in 2011. His younger brother, Major Ashraf Sharif, was killed when his car veered off the road on his way to attend the funeral of their father. Either despite, or perhaps because of, the rumor spread by a people of a particular leaning, the Pakistan Army has made it clear that Arshad Sharif’s death should be thoroughly investigated. Officers representing the Army have appeared on TV and spoken highly of the journalist, and the government has also been requested to conduct an independent inquiry and punish those issuing false allegations without evidence. The spokesperson of the military’s media wing has even demanded that the probe determine what compelled Sharif to flee the country. The U.S. has also urged Kenya to conduct a thorough investigation into the circumstances of the Pakistani journalist’s killing.

Back home in “divided” Pakistan, some groups have seized on the claims by their political leaders to presume—without any evidence—that Sharif has been killed by the security establishment without waiting for answers to key questions such as why he had first fled to the U.A.E. and then to Kenya. What is shocking about Sharif’s death is that even within the shadowy world of Pakistani intelligence, there is little precedence for state institutions being blamed for “managing” the killing of a dissident through a foreign agency. Unfortunately, a deeply polarized Pakistan is unlikely to see much unity even in the face of tragedy and people who follow Imran Khan are unlikely to be swayed by the results of any probe that doesn’t provide the conclusion they have already reached.

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