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SC asks JIT to submit progress report in Arshad Sharif’s murder case in two weeks

SC asks JIT to submit progress report in Arshad Sharif’s murder case in two weeks
February 13, 2023 Web Desk

ISLAMABAD (APP) - The Supreme Court on Monday directed the joint investigation team (JIT) formed for the probe of the killing of senior journalist Arshad Sharif in Kenya to submit a progress report in two weeks.

A five-member larger bench of the apex court comprising Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial, Justice Ejazul Ahsan, Justice Jamal Khan Mandokhail, Justice Sayyed Mazahar Ali Akbar Naqvi and Justice Mohammad Ali Mazhar heard the suo moto notice case regarding the independent and transparent investigation into the murder of renowned journalist Arshad Sharif in Kenya.

During the proceedings, Additional Attorney General (AAG) Aamir Rehman said that two reports including one by the Foreign Office and the other by the JIT on Arshad Sharif’s murder had been submitted in court. "The Kenyan authorities had accepted Pakistan’s request for mutual cooperation in the investigation," he added.

He said that legal action against the two police officials who opened fire at Arshad Sharif’s car had been initiated by the Kenyan authorities. Owais Ahmed, head of JIT, appeared before the bench and stated that the investigation team had not yet received any material related to Arshad Sharif’s murder. "The Kenyan officials had not granted the JIT full cooperation for the investigation," he added.

The AAG said that the Kenyan authorities had yet not given complete access to Pakistan to the crime scene, adding that the authorities had only expressed agreement over mutual legal cooperation. Justice Mazahar asked whether the JIT had found strong evidence from the investigation conducted in Kenya or not.

Owais Ahmed replied that the team was in contact with the Kenyan and United Arab Emirates (UAE) authorities. The JIT had met doctors and police officials in Kenya, while the UAE officials had yet not allowed the team to conduct an investigation there, he informed.

Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial said that Kenya was a sovereign country and there should be no blame on anyone. He said that the court would see if the special JIT had correctly conducted investigations in Kenya and UAE. "It was yet to be seen if the team was even ready for the investigation," he added.

"Mistakes were made in Pakistan and abroad in the case," he said and asked why was the fact-finding committee’s report released which alerted the suspects. Whether the special JIT conduct an inquiry on all the points presented in the Fact-Finding Committee’s report? It was the responsibility of the Foreign Office to investigate this issue, the chief justice remarked.

Justice Mazhar, in his remarks, said that the Kenyan foreign minister had assured the Foreign Office of cooperation and asked why was the special JIT not allowed to go to the murder site? He observed that the same story was being told to the court from the day one. Aamir Rehman replied that it was important to maintain diplomatic relations with Kenya as the matter was a complicated one.

Justice Ejazul Ahsan in his remarks said there were three aspects of Arshad Sharif’s murder which include who forced Arshad to leave Pakistan, whether an inquiry was initiated on the cases registered against him inside the country and what circumstances forced him to leave Pakistan? He went on saying that the JIT would automatically find out who wanted to get rid of Arshad Sharif when all these links were connected. He inquired about the whereabouts of Sharif’s mobile phone and other belongings.

Owais Ahmed replied that Arshad’s mobile and Ipad were with Kenyan IT department while the rest of his belongings had been received.

Justice Mazahar asked about the other JIT members, to which Owais Ahmed replied that three of them were present in the court. Justice Mazahar asked why did the rest of the members not come. He asked if was not the investigation team’s duty to remain present in the court. He asked why the statements of Khurram and Waqar, who were present with Sharif, were not recorded.

Aamir Rehman said the Kenyan authorities only permitted the JIT to meet the public prosecutor and assured Pakistan of cooperation but did not let the team visit the crime site.

Justice Mazahar asked why the Pakistani authorities did not seek help from the United Nations.

The AAG responded that Kenya was a friendly country and had supported Pakistan on every international forum, adding that Pakistan did not want to take any step where bilateral relations and global cooperation between the two countries could damage.

The Chief Justice remarked that the JIT should look how the case was moving forward. He asked who was bearing Arshad Sharif’s expenses and why? He said that the Pakistan embassy should also seek help from lawyers and journalists in Kenya and advised the authorities concerned to try getting their hands on the Kenyan investigation report into the matter.

The Chief Justice further stated the court was giving a month’s time to submit a full report on how to proceed in Arshad Sharif’s murder case. He asked the AAG to hire the services of a lawyer in Kenya and get the facts. Aamir Rehman replied that the government had approached Interpol for the red warrant of Khurram and Waqar, the key players in Arshad Sharif murder case.

Later, the hearing was adjourned till the first week of March.