In response to the “brutal death” of journalist Arshad Sharif, the Supreme Court on Tuesday ordered the government to file a first information report (FIR) by midnight.
The case was heard by a larger bench that included Justices Ijazul Ahsan, Jamal Mandokhail, Sayyed Mazahar Ali Akbar Naqvi, and Mohammad Ali Mazhar, and was presided over by Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Umar Ata Bandial.
The court ordered the relevant authorities to submit a copy to the court by tomorrow and CJP Bandial remarked, “The FIR should be registered by tonight.”
The hearing was postponed to tomorrow while the court awaited the inquiry report of the government-formed committee that looked into the killing. The CJP questioned why the court had not yet received the fact-finding committee’s report during the hearing.
The CJP questioned, “Why hasn’t it been given to the court yet? Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah was in Faisalabad when the information was received, the extra attorney general said the court. After Sanaullah reads it, the report would be delivered to the SC, he said.
“Does the interior minister have to make changes to the report?” the CJP asked, adding that the court could summon Sanaullah. It is the government’s job to investigate not the judiciary’s, he said.
“A journalist was killed. It should be revealed who was behind the killing,” the CJP remarked, adding that the fact-finding committee which had traveled to Kenya had been back in Pakistan for some time. “Why has the final report of the government-formed commission not been provided to the SC?”
The additional attorney general responded by saying the report would be submitted by tomorrow. However, the CJP told him to submit it today so the hearing could continue tomorrow.
“[We] have been waiting for the report for the past 43 days,” CJP Bandial said, terming Sharif’s medical report to be “unsatisfactory”. “We are taking the matter seriously. That is why a five-judge bench was constituted.”
Justice Ahsan remarked that Sharif was killed in Kenya under “suspicious circumstances”. “What action has the foreign ministry taken?” he asked.
Foreign Secretary Asad Majeed replied that the premier had contacted the Kenyan president in this regard. “The Pakistani High Commissioner in Kenya is in touch with the relevant authorities,” he said.
Then, Justice Ahsan inquired as to the veracity of the claim that neither Pakistan nor Kenya had yet registered a complaint.
In response, the foreign secretary stated that he was unsure if a complaint had been filed in Pakistan and that he would check with the Kenyan authorities on the subject.
“Why was a murder case involving Arshad Sharif not filed?” The foreign secretary responded to the CJP’s query by saying that this decision will be made after the inquiry report was examined.
The court then requested a response from the Foreign Office about the inquiry and the filing of a FIR in Kenya.
“Journalists are the truth’s voice. The CJP stated that journalists are a source of information. He stated that Sharif was a well-known journalist and that the issue was one of “human life.”
We are willing to work with the Pakistani administration in Kenya, the top judge continued.
CJP Bandial takes suo motu notice of Arshad Sharif’s ‘brutal killing’
According to a statement released by the Supreme Court (SC) on Tuesday, Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Umar Ata Bandial has taken suo motu notice of the “brutal assassination” of journalist Arshad Sharif.
The change occurs three days after Imran Khan, the leader of the PTI, wrote a letter to CJP Bandial requesting that he conduct an impartial judicial investigation into the death of Sharif, who was shot dead in Kenya on October 24.
According to the SC statement, the matter will be heard by the supreme court at 12:30 p.m. today. Notices have also been sent to the interior secretary, foreign affairs secretary, information and broadcasting secretary, director general (DG) of the Federal Investigation Agency, director general (DG) of the Intelligence Bureau, and president of the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists.
A five-member bench, headed by the CJP, would hear the case, the statement said.
The country’s journalist community as well as the general public are distressed and worried over the death of the senior journalist, and they are asking the court to look into the situation, it continued.
Imran and other PTI officials have been calling for a probe into the “targeted death” of the well-known journalist, claiming that he was forced to leave Pakistan and subsequently the United Arab Emirates as well, where he had briefly resided before traveling to Kenya. However, the Foreign Office has denied these allegations.
Furthermore, the CJP received a letter from Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif last month requesting that a judicial panel be established to investigate the situation.
On November 2, Sharif’s mother sent a letter to the CJP asking for the creation of a powerful judicial panel to look into the assassination.
Other Leaders ‘Welcome the decision’
Politicians applauded the SC’s choice to take suo motu notice of Sharif’s murder, stressing the important position the supreme court plays in upholding human rights.
Fawad Chaudhry, the leader of the PTI, applauded the ruling and stated that “the people expect the SC and the justices to stand up for basic human rights against pressure for the sovereignty of the Constitution, and to preserve human rights.”
Awami Muslim League (AML) chief Sheikh Rashid Ahmed also welcomed the development, predicting that several “hidden faces” would be unmasked during the trial.
“The nation is also looking towards the SC regarding the attack on Imran Khan and the Azam Swati case.” He advised the coalition government to prepare for the next general election instead of working on disqualifying the PTI chief.
Just before the SC’s statement was made public, PM Shehbaz claimed to have discussed Sharif’s murder with Kenya’s president while speaking at an event sponsored by the Islamabad Journalist Safety Forum.
The foreign minister, Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, he claimed, had been in touch with the relevant authorities, and he personally had talked to Pakistani agencies to request prompt action. I also requested in a letter to the CJP that a commission be established to investigate the case, and I trust that action will be made in this regard.
The premier added that no journalist or human rights advocate should face violence just for expressing their right to free speech as provided by the Constitution.