Lamenting the unlikelihood of investigations in Pakistan and Kenya shedding any light into last year’s assassination of journalist Arshad Sharif in Nairobi, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has decried the “duplicity” of authorities in both states.
“What with opaque or misleading investigations, a lack of cooperation and failure to arrest suspects, everyone is trying to protect their interests at the expense of the truth about Sharif’s death and justice for his family,” it said, noting that after quickly taking up the case, Pakistan’s Supreme Court has not held a single hearing on it since June 3.
Acknowledging that the lack of a mutual legal assistance agreement between Kenya and Pakistan was “officially” causing the blockage, it noted Kenya had yet to transmit the evidence it has gathered. Unofficially, it said, citing a source who requested anonymity, neither country wished to conclude the case. “During the past year, the various investigations have been marked by opaqueness and by sometimes crude attempts to steer them down false paths,” it said, claiming it had observed the same during its own investigation.
Recalling that Kenyan authorities had initially blamed the shooting on a “case of mistaken identity,” the RSF said this lacked credibility, as it was “hard to imagine that the police could have confused [a Mercedes Sprinter 311 CDI] with the Toyota Land Cruiser in which Sharif was traveling.” Additionally, it noted, Sharif’s vehicle was traveling in the opposite direction to the one taken by the stolen vehicle.
Following outcry over this account, Kenya’s Independent Police Oversight Authority (IPOA) reported that police officers involved in the shooting had claimed they fired on the Land Cruiser in response to shots coming from it. “But nothing in the car or at the location indicated that Sharif or his companion were armed. No bullet cartridges were found at the roadblock,” it said, describing as “suspicious” Kenyan police’s collection of their own cartridges after the car they had fired on refused to stop.
Noting that the IPOA’s final report had not been released, it said the Kenyan investigation appeared to have come to a complete halt.
Meanwhile, in Pakistan, RSF alleged investigations were hampered by attempts to steer them down avenues designed to protect the interests of the security forces. It recalled that a joint investigation team had visited Kenya after Sharif’s murder, producing a detailed report focusing mainly on criticizing the Kenyan investigation. “Whereas it dismissed the possibility of a ‘case of mistaken identity,’ it concluded to a ‘planned targeted assassination with transnational characters,’ which was largely based on speculation rather than substantial findings,” it added.
Noting the report “only very briefly” considered the possible involvement of members of Pakistani security services “although they were behind the threats that led Sharif to flee Pakistan,” it said the report had failed to provide a motive for its “key figure” of Waqar Ahmed. “And several circumstances contradict the hypothesis of a ‘planned assassination’ involving this ‘key figure’,” it added.
Noting the lawyer representing Sharif’s wife was now asking the U.N. to support his attempt to force Kenya to cooperate more effectively with Pakistan, Arnaud Froger, head of RSF’s investigation desk, lamented that no suspect had been arrested and no instigator identified. “Kenya is protecting its police officers and Pakistan is deliberately steering clear of the possibility that its security services were involved. Without an independent international investigation, as we are requesting, this journalist’s murder is liable to remain unpunished,” he warned.