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Thursday May 30, 2024

Supreme Court rejects police JIT on Arshad Sharif’s killing

The top court rejected the government’s JIT on journalist Arshad Sharif’s killing, and directed it to form a new special committee

By Shakeel Anjum & Sohail Khan
December 08, 2022
Slain journalist Arshad Sharif. Twitter
Slain journalist Arshad Sharif. Twitter 

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Wednesday rejected the government’s joint investigation team (JIT) consisting of police officials on journalist Arshad Sharif’s killing, and directed it to form a new special committee comprising senior and independent officials with the requisite expertise in investigation.

A five-member bench of the apex court, headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Justice Umar Ata Bandial and comprising Justice Ijazul Ahsen, Justice Mazahir Ali Akbar Naqvi, Justice Jamal Khan Mandokhel, and Justice Muhammad Ali Mazhar, heard the sumo motu case on Arshad Sharif’s killing.

Chief Justice Bandial said that they want the matter probed by senior, independent, and efficient officers who must also have expertise in bringing in evidence from abroad.

“The matter relates to a brutal murder; hence, the government, if needed, may, through the Foreign Office, seek the assistance of foreign organisations, including the United Nations,” the chief justice said. The chief justice further directed that all the information be shared with the family members of Arshad Sharif.

By the court’s earlier order, the federal government filed an FIR on Arshad Sharif’s death, and the Islamabad IGP later formed a JIT to look into the slain journalist’s death.

The court, however, rejected the said it (JIT) on Wednesday and directed the federal government to form a special committee to investigate the matter and submit the names of the officials Thursday (today). The court also asked the mother of Arshad Sharif to record her statement before the JIT.

At the outset of the hearing, the interior ministry submitted before the court the report of fact-finding on the Arshad Sharif matter, along with a copy of the FIR launched at Ramna Police Station. In the FIR, the names of three suspects, namely Waqar Ahmed, Khurram Ahmed, Tariq Ahmed Wasi, and others, have been nominated.

Meanwhile, the chief justice said that the facts about the murder of Sharif were in Kenya; therefore, efforts must be made to contact the Kenyan authorities.

Additional Attorney-General Chaudhry Amir Rehman informed the court that the High Commission was already in contact with the higher authorities in Kenya, adding that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is extending cooperation in this regard.

The law officer informed the court that the fact-finding report of the committee was also provided to the family members of Arshad Sharif.

Justice Mazahir Ali Akbar Naqvi said that the names of police officers who shot fire at slain journalists were not included in the fact-finding report and further asked why a case was not registered against the Kenyan police.

Additional Attorney-General Aamir Rehman submitted that it would be examined as to whether cases can be filed against foreign nationals or not.

Justice Bandial said that according to the report the nominated suspects were in contact with some important persons, so the government should appoint officers who could work independently.

The law officer told the court that a five-member committee had been named that would work undet the DIG headquarters. However, later it was decided that Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Intelligence Bureau (IB) and Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) officers should be included in the special JIT.

Meanwhile, the mother of Arshad Sharif, told the court how her son was forced to leave the country as well as Dubai, adding that she had approached the court to get justice for her son and his family.

The chief justice assured Arshad Sharif’s mother that the JIT being constituted to probe the matter will work independently and without any pressure.

“At the same time, we apologise for the unfortunate incident,” the CJP told the mother, adding that she could record her statement before the JIT.

She replied that she had already recorded her statement before the investigating team.

The chief justice said that the mother of the slain journalist had given some names; hence, the government, after constituting the JIT, should focus on investigating this sensitive issue from all dimensions.

“Because this is a criminal case, the court did not form a judicial commission; thus, officers of JIT should not be those who may be subordinates of persons nominated by the mother of the slain journalist,” the CJP stated.

The court directed the federal government to inform it by Thursday (today) about the names of the officers to be included in the JIT. Later, the court adjourned the matter for Thursday (today).

The fact-finding report reveals startling details. The JIT, comprised of Dr. Mohammad Athar Waheed, Director of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), and Deputy Director of the Intelligence Bureau (IB), Omar Shahid Hamid, in their fact-finding, indicates that the bullets were fired from two weapons of different calibers: six bullets were from a 7.62 mm rifle and three bullets from a 5.56 rifle. This was consistent with the police officer’s version involved in the shooting, who claimed that two weapons had been used, an AK-47 (7.62 mm) and a local Giboa 5.56 mm rifle.

Arshad Sharif received one bullet injury in the upper back, about 6–8 inches from the base of the neck, exiting from the chest. This wound appears to have been inflicted at close range, though not point-blank range. However, keeping in mind the firing pattern, this injury should also have had a corresponding puncture mark through the passenger seat, because the angle is such that the wound could not occur at that spot if a man of Arshad Sharif’s height (5 ft. 7 inches) had been seated in a normal position on the passenger seat of the V8 Land Cruiser without puncturing the seat, the report said.

The driver’s side door and window are undamaged. The driver seat does not even have any splatters of blood, which is curious since one of the injuries to Arshad Sharif was a head wound that caused his skull to shatter and spread hair, blood, and bone particles over the passenger seat, the passenger side roof of the car, and even on the rear passenger seat, but there seems to have been no splatter towards the right driver’s seat, which even a week after the incident can be seen as pristinely clean, the report indicates.

“The bullet hit about 6 to 8 inches below the neck and exited through the chest. It is not difficult to deduce from this wound that the bullet was fired at close range. The angle from which the bullet was fired should have also caused a hole in the car seat,” the report stated.

The fact-finding report disclosed that Waqar Ahmed has connections with the Kenyan Police and the intelligence agencies there.

Waqar Ahmed has close ties to Kenya’s National Intelligence Agency. According to Waqar, after the accident, the police handed over Arshad’s iPhone, iPad, wallet, and two USBs.

Waqar Ahmad handed over the iPhone and iPad to the National Intelligence Agency officer. A day later, an officer was sent by the Pakistan High Commission to collect Arshad Sharif’s belongings.

According to Waqar, he called the NIS officer and told them about it. The NIS officer stopped Waqar from taking anything to the Pakistan High Commission. Later, an assistant director was sent.

The report said the high commission officers found substantial evidence. The high commission officers discovered two mobile phones, a computer, and a personal diary of Arshad Sharif while he was in Kenya.

The first three meetings with Waqar Ahmed were quite helpful. The fact-finding team visited the residence of Arshad Sharif.

During the visit, the team found Arshad Sharif’s passport.

The answer to the question about the transfer of USBs and passports to the commission is not satisfactory.

Waqar Ahmed first expressed his willingness to give the CCTV footage, but he later apologised for giving the footage. Waqar Ahmad said the footage was not handed over to the local authorities. He said that the lawyer and wife have advised him not to give the footage.

Waqar’s younger brother Khurram is also mentioned in the fact-finding report, saying that he would take Arshad Sharif with him after the meal. On the way, they saw stones on the road, and Khurram told Arshad they must be robbers.

As they crossed the stones on the road, they heard the sound of gunshots. As soon as they heard the sound of gunshots, they fled from there, and Khurram felt that Arshad Sharif had been shot.

Khurram called his brother Waqar and asked him to come to the farmhouse. The farmhouse was 18 kilometers away.

On reaching the farmhouse, Khurram left the car at the gate and ran inside the farmhouse. Khurram says that Arshad was killed at the entrance of the farmhouse.

From the place of the incident to the farmhouse, Khurram did not know whether Arshad was alive or not. It is strange because Arshad was shot in the head.