ISLAMABAD: Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Umar Ata Bandial on Friday expressed concerns over the lack of progress by the Special Joint Investigation Team (SJIT) in the murder of senior journalist Arshad Sharif.
A five-member larger bench of the apex court headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Justice Umar Ata Bandial and comprising Justice Ijazul Ahsen, Justice Muhammad Ali Mazhar, Justice Jamal Khan Mandokhel and Justice Mazahir Ali Akbar Naqvi heard suo motu case journalist killed in Kenya on October 23, 2022.
During the course of the hearing, Additional Attorney General Aamir Rehman informed the court that there has been no response from UAE authorities and that they are awaiting a response on Mutual Legal Assistance (MLA) from Kenyan authorities. “It is painful that no progress was made so far in the murder case of the journalist while the foreign office also failed to get help from two countries”, the CJP said. The chief justice said that there should be clarity in the case, adding that there were allegations against those who protected Arshad and supported him financially from abroad.
At the outset of the hearing, Shaukat Siddiqui, counsel for Arshad Sharif’s mother objected to the supervision of the SJIT investigation by the court. Justice Mazahir Ali Akbar Naqvi however, observed that as per law the apex court could supervise the investigation. Chief Justice Umer Ata Bandial said “there were some aspects in the fact-findings report that needed to be probed.” The chief justice further said that the government was not providing the funds to Special Joint Investigation Team and it was the court that ordered it to provide and afterwards the probing team visited abroad. “ The purpose of the court was neither to implicate nor to protect anyone”, the CJP remarked adding that if no one takes interest in the case then it may prolong. The chief justice also said that the court respects the journalist community and did not initiate contempt proceedings against them irrespective of whatever they say about them. “Arshad Sharif was a journalist and citizen of this country and for the protection of fundamental rights of journalists, the court took suo moto notice”, he remarked. The FIR was registered in the case after the court initiated the proceedings, he added.
The counsel representing the journalist’s mother, however, submitted that they simply want the accused to be punished and do not want any innocent person to be entangled. He further submitted that the mother wants to file an FIR in the case according to her stance. Justice Ijazul Ahsen, another member of the bench however, observed that the court did not initiate the proceedings just to provide assistance to the probing team, to remove the apprehensions of journalists and for their protection. Meanwhile, Additional Attorney General Aamir Rehman told the court that they need a further three weeks for seeking Mutual Legal Assistance (MLA) from foreign countries. At this chief justice asked the law officer to update the court after any progress and adjourned the hearing for three weeks. On the February 13th hearing, the court was informed that the SJIT could not get any tangible material as the Kenyan authorities neither allowed the probing team to access the crime scene nor investigate any individual.
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