ISLAMABAD: A senior leader of former prime minister Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party has said the "biggest beneficiary" of Pakistani journalist Arshad Sharif’s murder was the government of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif since the late anchorman was a major critic of the administration.
Sharif, who was widely viewed as a staunch supporter of Khan and his PTI party, faced a slew of court cases related to charges of sedition and others by the time he fled the country in August, citing threats to his life.
Before and after his departure, he criticized the military and the ruling coalition which brought down Khan’s administration in a parliamentary no-confidence vote in April.
Sharif was killed in Kenya on Sunday by police officials in what they have called a case of "mistaken identity."
In a Twitter Space hosted by Arab News on Wednesday night, PTI senior vice president Chaudhry Fawad Hussain rejected the government’s decision to form a judicial commission to probe the circumstances of Sharif’s killing.
On Wednesday, the government also announced it would send a two-member joint investigation team to Kenya to gather more information on Sharif’s killing.
"I would say the biggest beneficiary of this killing is the government of Shehbaz Sharif," Hussain said in response to a question. "He criticized them, he uncovered their scandals, corruption."
In a press conference in Islamabad on Thursday, Pakistan’s interior minister Rana Sanaullah said the government had received fresh information about journalist Arshad Sharif’s killing in Kenya last week, and evidence gathered so far pointed at two main suspects, ex-PM Khan and Salman Iqbal, the CEO of the news channel in which the anchorman was last employed.
Independent analysts have said the country should request the United Nations to carry out the probe.
“This is a multi-jurisdictional case because we are talking here about someone who received very, very serious threats and harassments in Pakistan, who subsequently went to another jurisdiction where he clearly did not feel safe enough to stay,” said Omar Waraich, an international journalist and human rights activist who is an advisor with the Open Society Foundation, said on the Arab News Twitter Space.
“In such cases, you may turn to the UN for a commission of inquiry and in multiple ways that can be done,” he added. “One way is that it can be done through the Human Rights Council that Pakistan is a member [of] … It can make a request there through a resolution. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Volker Türk, can order [an inquiry] himself.”
He said the government could also go to the UN General Assembly or Security Council to request the world body to investigate the killing.
Asked what he thought of the suggestion, Hussain said he agreed with Waraich and he was “on the dot.”
“Much of the evidence [in the case] point to two people, one of them is Imran Khan while the other is Salman Iqbal," Sanaullah told reporters on Thursday, referring to the CEO of ARY News. “The facts which have so far come to light are currently being verified ... After that process, we will inform the nation about them.”
The minister said more information was being gathered about two people, Khurram and Waqar, who were allegedly hosting Sharif in Kenya.
“Khurram is an ARY employee,” he said. “This fact has not only come to light but has also been confirmed.”
He said the government would share information on Waqar and his role in Sharif’s killing as well as about a “controversial farmhouse” which the slain journalist visited on the day he was shot dead.
Sanaullah said his ministry would also probe a threat alert issued by the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa administration in August that said Sharif’s life was in danger and he could be assassinated by the Pakistani Taliban in Islamabad or its surrounding areas.
Sharif left Pakistan in August after going into hiding in his own country in July to avoid arrest following a citizen’s complaint against him on allegations of maligning the country’s national institutions, a reference to the military. His whereabouts were not publicly known.
A month later, Sharif’s employer, the private ARY Television, fired him, saying he had violated the TV station’s social media policy. His talk show Power Play was discontinued.
The TV channel had earlier in the year remained critical of Pakistan’s prime minister Shehbaz Sharif following the ouster of his predecessor, Imran Khan, in a no-confidence vote in parliament in April. ARY and Sharif were widely considered to report in support of Khan and his party.