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The Supreme Court (SC) ordered the interior secretary on Tuesday to register an FIR by tonight of the October 23 brutal killing of senior journalist Arshad Sharif. The directives came after Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Umar Ata Bandial took suo motu notice of the incident.

Earlier today, notices were issued to Foreign Affairs Secretary Asad Majeed, Information and Broadcasting Secretary Shahera Shahid, Federal Investigation Agency Director General (DG) Mohsin Butt, DG Intelligence Bureau, the interior secretary and president of the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) Afzal Butt.

Headed by CJ Bandial, a five-member bench presided over the proceedings today.

During the hearing, Justice Ijaz ul Ahsan asked the interior secretary whether it was true that an FIR had not been registered in either Pakistan or Kenya. The court was then informed that the government was “waiting for the fact-finding committee’s report to register an FIR”.

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CJ Bandial observed that “it has been a while since the fact-finding committee returned” from Kenya as he inquired why the report had “not yet been received by the SC”.

Additional Attorney General (AAG) Chaudhary Amir Rehman explained to the court that Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah had been in Faisalabad during the weekend whereas the report was received on Friday evening. He told the bench that “the report will be submitted after he sees it”.

“Does the interior minister want to alter the report?” CJ Bandial retorted, calling for the minister to appear before the court “right now”.

“There is an ongoing debate on social media,” the judge added, “fingers are being pointed at so many”.

However, the AAG said that the prime minister and law minister were also yet to see the report.

“Everyone has the right to access the investigation report,” the judge responded, adding that “investigation is the government’s responsibility, not the court’s”.

“A journalist was murdered,” the CJ added, “who killed him should be brought to light”.

Upon the AAG’s assurance of the report’s submission “by tomorrow” the court ordered that “it must be submitted today so that [the matter] may be heard tomorrow”.

“We have been waiting for 43 days for the report,” CJ Bandial added, observing that to date only Sharif’s medical report had been submitted, which the court also deemed “unsatisfactory” and that the court was “taking the issue very seriously”.

“A five-member bench has been constituted keeping in view the weight of the situation,” the judge stated. “Mistreatment of journalists will not be tolerated under any circumstances”, he said, adding that if journalists contribute to false reporting then the government should “introduce laws to punish them”.

“Is an investigation taking place in Kenya?” Justice Muhammad Ali Mazhar inquired.

Admitting the “suspicious circumstances” under which the journalist was murdered, Justice Ijazul Ahsan also inquired “what action has the foreign ministry taken so far”.

Upon this the foreign secretary informed the court that Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif had spoken to the Kenyan president and that the Pakistani high commissioner in Kenya was in touch with the relevant authorities. However, he stated that the progress made in the investigation was not yet known.

Read more PTI leaders summoned in journalist killing probe

Expressing anger at the federal government’s failure to submit the fact-finding committee’s report on Arshad Sharif’s murder, the top court ordered the interior ministry to register an FIR regarding killing of senior journalist and adjourned the hearing till tomorrow.

PM welcomes SC notice

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif welcomed the apex court’s decision to take suo motu notice of the senior journalist’s murder.

Assuring the court of the government’s “full cooperation” in the matter, the premier stressed that the court’s decision was in line with an earlier request he had made to the SC.

In a letter written to the top judge, the PM had asked the CJP to form a commission comprising all available judges of the apex court to ascertain the facts surrounding the mysterious murder of the journalist, who was shot dead in Kenya last month.

The letter had suggested that the commission may focus on five questions related to the circumstances surrounding the killing:

What procedure Arshad Sharif adopted to go abroad in August 2022 and who facilitated his departure abroad?

Was any federal or provincial agency, institution or administration aware of the threat issued to Arshad Sharif?

What circumstances and reasons forced Arshad Sharif to travel to Kenya from the United Arab Emirates?

What is the real truth behind the firing incident in which Arshad Sharif died?

Is Arshad Sharif’s death really a case of mistaken identity or is it the result of a ‘criminal game’?

PM Shehbaz had said in the letter that the formation of a commission is necessary to uphold the rule of law in the country and added that the federal government will extend full support to the panel in investigating the murder.

Also Read PM vows ‘proactive’ implementation of Journalist Safety Law to ensure media freedom

The premier had told the chief justice that judicial inquiry into the killing was inevitable to restore public confidence in the state institutions as doubts were being raised over the alleged involvement of government officials in the gruesome murder.

The development had come days after slain journalist Arshad Sharif’s mother, Riffat Ara Alvi, had penned a letter to CJ Bandial requesting him to form a high-level judicial commission to probe into her son’s death.

The murder

Sharif was shot dead on the outskirts of the Kenyan capital Nairobi on October 23. His death sent shock waves across rights organisations, the media fraternity and civil society and prompted calls for a thorough investigation and disclosure of facts.

Initially, the Kenyan media quoted the local police as saying that Sharif was shot dead in a case of “mistaken identity”.

However, later reports reconstructed the events surrounding the killing, stating that an occupant in Sharif’s car at the time of his killing was believed to have shot at paramilitary General Service Unit (GSU) officers.

Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah had also at that time said that evidence suggested a prominent Pakistani journalist was the victim of a targeted killing in Kenya, not an accidental shooting, though he still needed more information on the incident.

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