Pakistan Reader# 448, 6 December 2022
On 6 December, the Supreme Court announced that the Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Umar Ata Bandial has taken suo motu notice of the “brutal killing” of journalist Arshad Sharif. A statement from the Supreme Court said, “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 court has also issued notices 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) for the hearing scheduled for 6 December.
CJP questions the delayed report by the fact-finding committee
During the hearing, CJP Bandial ordered that the FIR should be registered before 6 December and directed the authorities concerned to submit a copy to the court. He also directed the committee formed by the government to probe the killing to submit the inquiry report by 7 December. During the hearing, CJP Bandial also asked, “A journalist was killed. It should be revealed who was behind the killing…Why has the final report of the government formed commission not been provided to the SC?”
He also said, “[We] have been waiting for the report for the past 43 days,” terming Sharif’s medical report to be “unsatisfactory.” He added, “We are taking the matter seriously. That is why a five-judge bench was constituted.”
A five-member bench headed by the CJP heard the case. The bench would include Justice Ijaz Ul Ahsan, Justice Jamal Khan Mandokhail, Justice Mazahar Ali Akbar Naqvi and Justice Muhammad Ali Mazhar.
Imran Khan’s call to conduct an independent judicial inquiry
This decision by the Supreme Court comes three days after Imran Khan in a letter to the CJP called for an independent judicial inquiry. He said, “Please constitute a judicial commission and take suo motu notice on the assassination of Arshad Sharif Shaheed. This is the demand of the entire nation.” Similarly, PTI parliamentarians have filed petitions to the Supreme Court for “clear investigations” for the case along with other cases including the assassination attempt on Imran Khan and Senator Azam Swati Twitter case. The PTI has been calling for an investigation into the “targeted killing” of Arshad Sharif who they alleged was forced to leave Pakistan.
Other calls for judicial inquiry
Previously, Arshad Sharif’s mother had written to the CJP requesting the formation of a high-powered judicial commission to investigate the murder. Additionally, PM Shehbaz Sharif has also written to the CJP to form a judicial commission to investigate the killing of Arshad Sharif.
Arshad Sharif’s controversial death
On 23 October, Arshad Sharif was shot dead by Kenyan General Service Unit (GSU) officers as driving to Nairobi, Kenya. The Kenyan Police initially stated that he was shot in a case of “mistaken identity,” however, reports circulated later claimed that an occupant in Sharif’s car at the time of his killing was believed to have shot at the police unit. (Haseeb Bhatti, “SC tells govt to register FIR of Arshad Sharif’s killing by tonight,” Dawn, 6 December 2022; Maryam Nawaz, “CJP Bandial takes suo motu notice of Arshad Sharif murder,” The News International, 6 December 2022)