ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s Foreign Office on Friday rejected reports that Islamabad had written to authorities in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to expel prominent journalist Arshad Sharif who was killed in Kenya on October 23.
Sharif, a hugely popular talk show host, was of late a harsh critic of the current ruling coalition and the army, and fled the country in August, citing threats to his life.
The anchorman was believed to have been in the UAE since he left Pakistan and had recently traveled to Kenya, where he was killed by police in what they called a case of “mistaken identity.”
The Foreign Office on Friday denied reports Pakistani Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari had written a letter to UAE authorities to deny Sharif an extended stay in the Gulf country.
“There is no such letter to our knowledge. We have seen such reports, spreading disinformation on social media as well, where some people were suggesting that there was a letter and it was allegedly signed by the foreign minister,” Asim Iftikhar Ahmed, the spokesperson for the Pakistani Foreign Office, said during a weekly press briefing.
“I would like to say very clearly, this is absolutely baseless; there is no truth in it whatsoever. And even this matter does not relate to the Foreign Ministry.”
Ahmed said Pakistani officials remained engaged with Kenyan authorities on the matter at multiple levels.
“As you recall the prime minister had also spoken to the Kenyan President. Pakistan has formally requested the Kenyan government for detailed investigation,” he said.
“The government has also formed a two-member team to ascertain the facts related to the murder from Kenyan police and relevant authorities. Ministry of Foreign Affairs and our High Commission in Nairobi are facilitating the team’s visit.”
A day earlier, a spokesperson for the Pakistan army also said Pakistan had not tried to stop Sharif from leaving Pakistan or requested the UAE to force him to leave.
“No state institution tried in any way to stop Arshad Sharif from leaving Pakistan. If the government wanted to do so, it could have done it,” he said, adding that the journalist traveled onward to Kenya after his UAE visa expired.
“No one at the state level forced Arshad Sharif to leave Dubai. So, who were the people who forced him to leave from there?...Who told him not to return to Pakistan and that his life was safer in a country like Kenya?“
The journalist’s body was transported to Pakistan on Wednesday and he was laid to rest in Islamabad on Thursday, with thousands of people attending his funeral prayers at the Shah Faisal Mosque in the federal capital and demanding the killing be properly investigated.