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SC likely to form judicial commission in Arshad Sharif case

Commission to be formed if the government and SJIT failed to accelerate their task

By Sohail Khan
April 06, 2023
Slain Journalist Arshad Sharif. — Facebook
Slain Journalist Arshad Sharif. — Facebook

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court (SC) has held that it may consider the formation of a judicial commission for investigating the murder of journalist Arshad Sharif if the government and Special Joint Investigation Team (SJIT) failed to accelerate their task.

“Failure to satisfy the court that all efforts are being expended to accelerate the investigation may compel it to consider constituting a Judicial Commission for investigating the murder of Arshad Sharif,” says a written order issued by the court.

The court directed the Additional Attorney General (AAG) to identify the correct process for forwarding the Mutual Legal Assistance requests to the government of Kenya under the Kenyan Mutual Legal Assistance Act 2011 and to inform the court once a response is received from the Kenyan authorities on the amended Mutual Legal Assistance request of February 22, 2023.

“The court, however, is also concerned that progress in the investigation has stalled in the past few months,” the written order added.

“We are further strengthened in this view by our own jurisprudence which affirms that the court has the power in its constitutional jurisdiction to monitor, as opposed to supervise, investigations into matter affecting the fundamental rights of the public at large,” says the written order.

“After the murder of Arshad Sharif on October 23, 2022, more than 5,000 letters from journalists and the general public seeking the court’s scrutiny of the matter were received,” says the written order.

“The court’s sole purpose for taking suo motu notice was to secure an independent and transparent investigation into the murder of Arshad Sharif, an objective to which it is still committed,” the written order said.

The AG further submitted that the Representative of Pakistan to the United Nations has identified the different mechanisms for seeking the assistance of UN in the investigation.

It is pertinent to mention here that senior journalist Arshad Sharif was killed in the Kenyan capital Nairobi on October 23 where he was living in self-exile. Meanwhile, Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui, counsel for Arshad Sharif family, raised objection over court’s proceedings. According to him, the SC cannot monitor the JIT investigations. The SC can monitor and investigate the matters related to basic rights. Additional Attorney General (AAG) informed the court about mutual legal assistance with Kenya and the UAE. According to AAG, the authorities have not given reply to mutual legal assistance. Three weeks more were given to special JIT for investigation in other countries. It is pertinent to mention here that Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Umar Ata Bandial had made remarks during the hearing of Arshad Sharif murder suo motu notice that they were not monitoring the investigations but were extending cooperation to institutions in the investigation. “Our aim is not including or protecting someone in the case. Arshad Sharif was a journalist and a Pakistani citizen. We also were saddened over this incident of murder,” he added.