Arshad Sharif

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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 News, 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 was issued following his interview on ARY News with Shahbaz Gill, a close aide to former Prime Minister Imran Khan, who made comments considered offensive by the military, according to news reports and Siddique, who spoke with CPJ ahead of the six-month anniversary of Sharif’s death. Sharif was facing 16 police cases against him across Pakistan, including complaints of high treason, according to Siddique.

ARY News 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 first fled to Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates, but left for Kenya later in August 2022 following pressure from the Pakistan embassy and the Dubai police, who said he would be deported back to Pakistan if he did not exit the country, Siddique said.

In Kenya, Sharif continued reporting on alleged corruption among Pakistan’s ruling elites on his YouTube channel, which has 445,000 followers, according to Siddique, who is seeking an independent United Nations-led probe into what she called a “targeted killing.”

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.

In December 2022, Pakistan’s Supreme Court took notice of the case and ordered a government investigation into Sharif’s death. In a December 2022 report, a Pakistan government fact-finding team found that the Kenyan police portrayal of the killing as a case of mistaken identity was “full of contradictions” and that the involvement of “characters in Kenya, Dubai, and Pakistan in this assassination cannot be ruled out.”

The team also noted that a Pakistan post-mortem report had documented numerous injuries on Sharif’s body, including four missing fingernails, hand wounds, and a broken rib, but that the investigation had found “no concrete evidence” to establish that Sharif was tortured before his death.

In December 2022, the Pakistan government formed a new joint investigation team to probe the killing following an order by the country’s Supreme Court. In February 2023, Pakistan state officials told the court that Kenyan authorities had denied the team access to evidence and the crime scene.

CPJ called and messaged Marriyum Aurangzeb, Pakistan’s information minister; Malik Ahmad Khan, spokesperson for Pakistan Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif; and Major General Ahmed Sharif Chaudhry, director general of the Pakistan military media wing, in April 2023, but did not receive any replies. The press wing of Pakistan President Arif Alvi’s office and the Pakistan embassy in the United Arab Emirates did not respond to CPJ’s emailed requests for comment sent in April 2023.

CPJ also called and messaged Japheth Koome, inspector general of the Kenyan police, and Resila Onyango, the national police spokesperson, in April 2023, but did not receive any replies. CPJ’s calls to Noordin Haji, director of public prosecutions, did not connect and messages did not receive a response.

Hussein Mohamed, spokesperson for the office of Kenyan President William Ruto, and Francis Gachuri, spokesperson for the Kenyan Ministry of Interior, told CPJ in April 2023 that the case was still under investigation and referred CPJ to the Kenyan police, the Independent Policing Oversight Authority (IPOA), which investigates police violations; and the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions for comment. 

A representative who answered CPJ’s call to Anne Makori, chairperson of Kenya’s IPOA, said Makori would review CPJ’s written questions, however, CPJ did not receive a response. IPOA spokesperson Dennis Oketch also requested CPJ email questions but did not respond.

The Dubai police did not respond to CPJ’s emailed request for comment sent in April 2023.