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Wednesday February 01, 2023

SC orders govt to set up new JIT to investigate Arshad Sharif murder

Five-member bench headed by CJP Umar Ata Bandial resumes hearing suo motu notice on journalist Arshad Sharif's murder

December 07, 2022
Slain journalist and anchorperson Arshad Sharif. — Arshad Sharif/ Facebook
Slain journalist and anchorperson Arshad Sharif. — Arshad Sharif/ Facebook

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Wednesday rejected the joint investigation team (JIT) set up to probe the murder of senior Pakistani journalist Arshad Sharif, hours after it was formed and asked the government to constitute a new one.

Earlier in the day, the government had formed a five-member JIT to probe Sharif’s murder following the registration of a first information report (FIR) of the journalist's murder on court orders. The Islamabad inspector-general (IG) constituted the JIT today (Wednesday) and named the DIG headquarters as its chair.

“The federal government should immediately form a new investigation team. The court wants an independent team to investigate the murder,” remarked Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Umar Ata Bandial as a five-member bench resumed hearing the suo motu case on Sharif’s murder.

CJP Bandial headed the full bench, comprising Justice Aijazul Ahsan, Justice Jamal Khan Mandokhail, Justice Mazahir Ali Akbar Naqvi and Justice Mohammad Ali Mazhar.

At the outset of the hearing, CJP Bandial remarked that the court will Sharif's mother's stance.

Meanwhile, senior journalist Hassan Ayub advanced to the rostrum and informed the court that Sharif's mother couldn't come to the courtroom due to the unavailability of an elevator. He also complained about the bad behaviour of the police with the deceased journalist's family.

Additional attorney general reads fact-finding committee's report

During the hearing, Additional Attorney General (AAG) Amir Rehman read the fact-finding committee's report, which was released earlier in the day. A copy of the report, available with The News, was also handed in court ahead of the hearing.

The AAG said that copies of the report have been provided to Sharif's family. 

He maintained that the Foreign Office is providing every possible assistance in probing the murder.

Justice Ahsan inquired if the suspected shooter was a member of the Kenyan police force or not. Meanwhile, Justice Mazhar inquired why the interviews of the three Kenyan cops were not added to the report.

AAG Rehman told the bench that the investigative team took information from the Kenyan officials, adding that the three cops in question were introduced by them. He added that the fourth cop could not be interviewed as he was injured.

“We are trying to contact the relevant minister and cabinet secretary in Kenya. The Pakistan High Commission in Kenya is in touch with the relevant authorities,” he told the judges. He also informed the court that a case has been registered.

At this, Justice Ahsan once again asked the government lawyer who the shooters were in this incident. “They were Kenyan police officers,” the AAG said.

Meanwhile, Justice Bandial shared that report has been provided to the court at 1:00am.

The CJP remarked that the journalist was brutally murdered, and asked the government to seek the Kenyan government’s cooperation. He also added that some witnesses of the case were in Pakistan.

The chief justice then asked whether anyone from the police department was present or the people who wrote the report were in the courtroom.

The AAG informed the CJP that IG Islamabad and the director general of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) were present in the court.

CJP lauds fact-finding committee's work

CJP Bandial lauded the work of the fact-finding team in the case.

"The fact-finding committee's work is commendable," he said.

However, Justice Naqvi expressed annoyance over the absence of the shooters' names in the report.

"On what grounds have three people been nominated in the case. Why wasn't a case registered against the cops who opened fire?" he asked.

The judge questioned why action isn't being taken against those responsible for the murder if their name is stated in the report.

"I'm warning not to present such reports in court," he reprimanded AAG Rehman.

At this, Rehman said that it has to be reviewed if a case can be registered against foreigners. He also assured the court of making the inquiry report a part of the records.

Arshad Sharif's mother appears in court

Later, Sharif's mother Rifat Ara appeared in court and pleaded for justice for her slain son.

"Arshad Sharif was forced to leave the country and wasn't spared even there [abroad]," she said while informing the court that a report has been prepared about what happened with Sharif.

CJP Bandial condoled with Ara over her loss and said that the report she presented will be viewed. He directed the AAG to look into the said report, while assuring Ara that the investigation team will probe the murder without any pressure.

Meanwhile, Justice Naqvi told Ara that she will have to record her statement to the investigation team. At this, Sharif's mother said that she has recorded her statement to the team earlier as well.

CJP orders govt to probe murder through all aspects

CJP Bandial said that Sharif's mother has given the names of several people. He directed the government to probe murder through all aspects as per the law.

"This is a civil lawsuit that's why the [apex] court didn't form a commission. The case starts from Khurram and Waqar," the top judge said while directing the government to update the court on the new JIT.

CJP Bandial informed Sharif's mother that an FIR has been registered and her statement will be taken for investigation.

'Special JIT will be formed'

The court stated that a special JIT will be formed and a day's time was sought to nominate members of the body. "The investigation into Arshad Sharif's murder should be held by talented senior and independent officials. Special JIT members should be authorised to hold overseas probe," the apex court ordered.

CJP Bandial added that the court does not want any member to have connections with any influential person.

The CJP asked the lawyer representing Sharif's wife to share their reservations regarding the FIR in written.

Meanwhile, the AAG informed the court that Investigation Bureau, Inter-services Intelligence and Federal Investigation Agency officials will be included in the JIT after approval of their names from the federal cabinet.

Later, the court, while directing the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to help the new JIT in collecting evidence and take assistance from the United Nations or other global bodies if needed, adjourned the hearing till tomorrow.