On the night of October 23, 2022, Pakistani journalist Arshad Sharif was shot dead in a remote area outside the Kenyan capital Nairobi, according to a statement by the Kenyan police and a post by his wife, Javeria Siddique, on Twitter.
A police officer fatally shot Sharif, 49, who previously worked as an anchor with Pakistan’s ARY TV, at a roadblock while they were looking for a stolen motor vehicle, according to the police statement and news reports.
Sharif left Pakistan in August 2022 while facing a series of police cases against him and an arrest warrant issued following his interview on ARY TV with Shahbaz Gill, a close aide to former Prime Minister Imran Khan, who made comments considered offensive by the military, according to those reports and CPJ documentation.
ARY TV was briefly taken off the air in Pakistan in August, and on August 31, the channel said it was parting ways with Sharif, citing a breach of conduct on social media.
Sharif’s wife later said he was “assassinated” in Kenya, but she did not elaborate in her November 1 Twitter post. She also claimed the Pakistani government forced Sharif to leave the United Arab Emirates, where he was before arriving in Kenya.
On November 8, Pakistani Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah said Sharif was killed in a “targeted attack” based on initial finding from a two-member Pakistani inquiry team, according to reports. The minister did not provide a motive for the killing.
The Kenya Human Rights Commission said on November 17 that Sharif was killed in a pre-planned murder but did not elaborate on the reasons, according to reports.
Sharif was killed because of his work “to speak and write the truth against the mighty and the powerful,” his wife said in a letter addressed to Pakistani president, which CPJ reviewed.
Sharif had exposed corruption involving ruling elites in Pakistan and was killed "in the line of duty," she told CPJ, without directly confirming whether he was working on an investigation in Kenya. Siddique is seeking an independent United Nations-led probe into the killing.
Sharif was facing 20 police cases against him across Pakistan, including complaints of high treason, according to Mian Muhammad Nadeem, the deputy secretary-general of the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists, who spoke to CPJ via messaging app.
Nadeem said Sharif was possibly in Kenya because it is one of the countries that issue on-arrival visas to Pakistani citizens, and there was also speculation that he was there to work on an investigation, adding that the union could not independently verify either claim.
The unclear circumstances under which Sharif died prompted questions in Pakistani, Kenyan, and international media, including why the vehicle was targeted as the registration plate of the car he was in did not match the plate number of the stolen vehicle, and why the police had targeted Sharif, a passenger, rather than the driver.
Pakistan’s Interior Ministry did not immediately respond to CPJ’s emailed query.
In response to CPJ’s queries sent via messaging application, Kenya National Police Service spokesperson Bruno Shioso declined to comment and referred CPJ to the Independent Policing Oversight Authority (IPOA), a statutory body that investigates police misconduct.
IPOA spokesperson Dennis Oketch told CPJ that investigations into Arshad’s killing were ongoing, and he could not preempt their findings or immediately provide a timeline on the expected conclusion of the inquiry.