ISLAMABAD: The federal government on Thursday constituted a special joint investigation team (SJIT) to probe the murder of journalist Arshad Sharif in Kenya.
A five-member larger bench of the Supreme Court headed by Chief Justice Umer Ata Bandial and comprising Justice Ijazul Ahsen, Justice Mazahir Ali Akbar Naqvi, Justice Jamal Khan Mandokhel, and Justice Muhammad Ali Mazhar heard the suo moto case regarding senior journalist Arshad Sharif, who was killed in Kenya on October 23, 2022.
In pursuance of the court’s last order, Additional Attorney-General Chaudhry Aamir Rehman informed the court that the federal government has constituted a new five-member special joint investigation team (SJIT) comprising highly professional officers that will investigate the murder of Arshad Sharif in Kenya.
The team will be led by Islamabad DIG Headquarters Awais Ahmed while four other members of the team are; Sajid Kiyani of the Intelligence Bureau (IB), Muhammad Aslam from the Inter-Service Intelligence (ISI), Waqaruddin from the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), and Murtaza Afzal from the Military Intelligence (MI), respectively.
The AAG informed the court that the federal government has constituted the team given the FIR lodged at Ramna Police Station under Section 302. He also informed the court that the Islamabad Operation SSP) will assist the investigation team.
On Thursday, during the hearing, Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Umer Ata Bandial expected that the new team will make progress and will lead the matter to a logical conclusion.
“All that we want is a transparent and impartial investigation into this highly sensitive matter, and we expect that the team will make progress and yield positive results after investigating all the areas from many dimensions,” the chief justice remarked.
The chief justice anticipated that the team would make progress and asked the AAG that if it encountered any difficulties during the investigation, his office could be approached in writing.
The chief justice also said that, as the team has been assigned the task of investigating the matter at hand, the government will be asked to ensure proper financial assistance to it.
Additional Attorney-General Aamir Rehman has submitted to a court query that the team will have executive powers to execute its functions while probing the matter.
Another member of the bench, Justice Muhammad Ali Mazhar, asked the law officer how much time the special team will take to conclude its investigation.
The AAG replied that it depends upon the Kenyan government how much cooperation it could extend to the SJIT in pursuance of the task assigned to it by the government.
The law officer, however, submitted that the SJIT will try its best to conclude its investigation well in time, adding that after launching the investigation, it will first record the statement of the mother of Arshad Sharif.
He also stated that after beginning its investigation, the SJIP will travel to Kenya to unearth all of the facts.
Justice Mazhahir Ali Akbar Naqvi asked the law officer if the people nominated in the FIR will surrender.
The judge said that legal action could be taken if the accused could not surrender.
Justice Ijazul Ahsen, another member of the bench, said that the accused persons could be brought back through Interpol.
Meanwhile, the chief justice noted in its order that, in response to the court’s directive, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has also submitted its response to the matter at hand, detailing its actions.
The court later adjourned the hearing until the first week of January, with directing the government to submit an interim report by the SJIT after it began its investigation.
In its reply, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs submitted that the ministry in Arshad Sharif’s murder is in constant contact with the Pakistani mission in Kenya and the United Arab Emirates, the Foreign Office of Kenya, and the authorities of the United Arab Emirates to investigate the case and obtain evidence.
It further submitted that the prime minister also contacted the Kenyan president by telephone and requested assistance in the investigation. It said contacts with the Kenyan authorities will soon yield positive results, and the Kenya High Commission in Pakistan has assured that the evidence collection and investigation process is ongoing.
It further submitted that the Kenyan High Commission will soon share the final findings with Pakistan, adding that the Foreign Office is reviewing procedures for assistance from international organisations to advance the investigation.
“The Foreign Office is also committed to maintaining friendly relations with Kenya and the United Arab Emirates,” says the reply, adding that the FO is considering sending a special delegation to raise the matter with the Kenyan authorities.
It further submitted that instructions are being issued to the Pakistani High Commission to speed up the investigation of the case, adding that the Foreign Office is also considering other legal options to bring the evidence and the investigation to a logical conclusion.
“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is committed to assisting the Supreme Court and facilitating the SJIT established to meet the ends of justice expeditiously,” the response concluded.
According to a news agency, the SC directed the special joint investigation team to submit a progress report every two weeks.