Tuesday May 30, 2023

Both members of fact-finding panel in Arshad Sharif case posted out

February 15, 2023

ISLAMABAD: Two officers who conducted fact-finding in the Arshad Sharif murder case have been posted out from their positions in the Federal Investigation Authority and Intelligence Bureau for reasons best known to their bosses. Dr. Athar Waheed was serving in the FIA and Omer Shahid in the IB.

Athar was transferred to Punjab more than a week ago and he is awaiting an assignment there in contrast to several other officers who were immediately posted at key positions. He is a BS-20 officer and is famous for jealously guarding his independence.

During the long march of Mian Nawaz Sharif in 2009, which was aimed at the restoration of the-then chief justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, Athar had refused to obey an illegal order of his boss to arrest 600 people of the PMLN. He was then SP Civil Lines in Gujranwala. Later, he booked a senior army officer in case of a missing person when he was serving as SP Model Town, Lahore.

In the foreign funding case, he presided over the investigation while registering cases against PTI leaders. When he was assigned Arshad Sharif’s murder investigation, the report he co-authored with Omer Shahid was quite upsetting for some powerful officials whose unexplained links with Arshad’s hosts in Kenya raised many eye-brows.

Omer was the IB’s head of Sindh when made a part of the fact-finding case in Arshad’s murder. He has also been removed. An agency official said he was given the post (IB’s provincial head) as a stop-gap arrangement because his predecessor, Azad Khan, was to go on a mandatory promotional course which has now been completed and Azad has returned to his position.

However, another source said that his role during the investigation in Arshad’s case was disliked by certain quarters for accusing a powerful official.

Both officers were lauded by the journalist community in general and Arshad Sharif’s family in particular for an independent investigation and reporting it without mincing a word. However, their work came under scrutiny of the Special Joint Investigation Team (SJIT) set up to further probe the matter. They were asked questions about statements they had recorded and the conclusion they reached.

Responding to it, the officers said they had documented everything which formed the basis of their findings. They also suggested the team expand their investigation from what the fact-finding team has discovered so far as repeating the same exercise will only be a waste of resources and time.

This has now further proved as the Supreme Court’s five-member bench looking into the matter has found nothing new in the investigation carried out by the SJIT as Kenyan and the UAE authorities have refused to cooperate with the team. The court had already declared that the SJIT must visit both countries only after securing assurance of cooperation but the team went there in the absence of any commitment in this regard. It has been learnt that the fact-finding team was also in communication with the WhatsApp company for obtaining the Call Detail Record (CDR) of the Kenyan police officials held accused of the murder as well as Khurram and Waqar, the two brothers who hosted Arshad but their role has been found suspicious. The company was ready to share the CDRs provided there was a ruling from the court that it was needed for the murder investigation. The newly-formed team has not done any follow-up. The case has also been compromised through registering a faulty First Information Report (FIR) as the wrong date of occurrence was entered. Likewise, since the crime was transnational in nature as the murder occurred in Kenya of a Pakistani journalist, such matters are dealt with by the FIA which has liaison with police of other countries.

In the past, Imran Farooq’s murder case was also handled by the FIA. In the case under question, Islamabad police are the investigation agency.