Outspoken Pakistani journalist critical of army killed in Kenya

The 49-year-old journalist, who fled Pakistan in August after multiple cases were brought against him for criticizing the army, was shot dead in Kenya.

A prominent Pakistani investigative journalist who criticized the country’s powerful military has been murdered in Kenya nearly two months after leaving Pakistan.

“I lost my boyfriend, husband and my favorite journalist today, according to the police he was shot in Kenya,” said Javeria Siddique tweeted about the death of her husband Arshad Sharif on Sunday night.

The 49-year-old journalist fled the country in August to avoid arrest after he was beaten multiple times, including sedition over an interview with Shahbaz Gill – a close associate of former Prime Minister Imran Khan – in which Gill made comments deemed offensive to the army.

Claiming to be harassed by state institutions and threatening his life, he moved to Dubai in August and later to Kenya.

The channel Sharif worked for was briefly taken off the air in August for broadcasting “false, hateful and inflammatory” content.

ARY, the channel with which Sharif has been associated for the past eight years, announced it was saying goodbye to the journalist who was one of the top primetime news anchors.

Pakistan’s foreign ministry expressed its “sadness” over the death of Arshad Sharif, adding in the statement that they were in contact with Kenyan officials about the matter.

The ministry confirmed that the Pakistani envoy to Kenya along with embassy officials had identified the body at the Chiromo Funeral House in Nairobi and are now awaiting further proceedings and a police report.

“The High Commission will facilitate the prompt repatriation of Mr Sharif’s remains in coordination with the host authorities,” the statement said.

Kenyan media have quoted local police officials as saying the shooting was a case of “misidentification”.

Kenyan National Police spokesman Bruno Shioso confirmed the incident and told Al Jazeera that local authorities are currently investigating the murder.

“Our competent authorities are currently investigating and are unable to comment at this time. We will also issue a preliminary statement in due course,” he said.

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Kenyan newspaper The Star reported that the car Sharif was driving was fired upon after it failed to stop at a roadblock on the Nairobi-Magadi highway.

Al Jazeera has contacted Kenyan police officials but has not yet received a response.

The Islamabad Supreme Court has informed the authorities to provide them with a report on the circumstances of the death as soon as possible.

Sharif, once considered close to Pakistan’s powerful military establishment, turned into a fierce critic after the ouster of former Prime Minister Khan’s government in April.

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After news of Sharif’s death broke early on Monday on social media, condolences poured in from all sides.

Pakistani President Arif Alvi, who awarded Sharif one of Pakistan’s highest civilian honors in 2019, tweeted his condolences and said his death was a great loss to journalism and Pakistan.

Shehbaz Sharif, the Pakistani Prime Minister, also expressed his shock at the journalist’s death.

“I am deeply saddened by the shocking news of the tragic death of journalist Arshad Sharif. May Allah SWT grant him a place in heaven. My deepest condolences and prayers for the bereaved,” he tweeted Monday morning.

Pakistan’s Human Rights Commission demanded an immediate investigation into Sharif’s death.

“A long, grim history of violent tactics to silence journalists explains why the reported murder of journalist Arshad Sharif in Kenya sent shockwaves through the journalist community. The government must immediately launch a transparent investigation into the circumstances of his death,” the organization said in a statement.

Pakistan has a history of media repression and violence against journalists.

Last month, the United States expressed concern over press freedoms in Pakistan after Pakistani authorities briefly blocked coverage in August of ARY, which is seen as sympathetic to former Prime Minister Khan.

Merry

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