The killing of a Pakistani investigative journalist in Kenya was a “planned assassination”, a team of Pakistani investigators has said in a report released on Wednesday.
Arshad Sharif, who was critical of Pakistan’s powerful army, was killed when police shot at his car on the outskirts of the Kenyan capital Nairobi in late October. Nairobi police later expressed regret over the incident, saying it had been a case of “mistaken identity” during a search for a similar car involved in a child abduction case.
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Sharif’s killing led to condemnations and calls for an independent probe.
Pakistan’s Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif announced an investigation and promised the government’s findings would be shared with the public. The military and Pakistani journalists also demanded a probe, as did Sharif’s widow, Javeria Siddique, and other family members.
The 49-year-old journalist was living in exile after he fled the country in August to avoid arrest in the wake of multiple cases, including sedition charges, slapped against him for making comments on his show deemed offensive to the military.
Meanwhile, Islamabad police have charged two Pakistani businessmen living in Kenya, who had hosted Sharif in the African country, with involvement in his killing.
The investigators’ 592-page report, seen by The Associated Press, said the Kenyan police issued contradictory statements following the killing. As part of the probe, two Pakistani officials had travelled to Kenya where they met with police and Sharif’s hosts, brothers Khurram and Waqar Ahmed.
According to the report, Khurram told the investigators he had been in the car with Sharif at the time of the shooting, travelling home after dinner. They saw the roadblock, which Khurram believed to have been set up by robbers. As they sped through, he heard the fatal gunshots, he said.
Khurram said he then called his brother who advised that he keep driving until they reached the family’s farmhouse, several kilometres away. Once at the house, the brothers found Sharif was already dead, Khurram was quoted as saying.
Al Jazeera’s Malcolm Webb, reporting from the site of the killing in Kenya’s Kajiado, said the brothers have not spoken to the press since the incident.
However, their lawyer has said they “were not involved and that they’re also fearing for their lives”, Webb said.
The report shed no light on whether it found Khurram’s account suspicious. It only said the Kenyan police were apparently “used as instruments” in the killing, possibly with financial or other compensation – again, without elaborating or offering evidence to support the accusation.
The report offered no evidence for its claims and there was no immediate comment from Kenya.
“This was a planned, targeted assassination … rather than a case of mistaken identity” as the Kenyan police claimed, the report said. It refrained from blaming anyone specifically, saying only that individuals in Kenya, Dubai or Pakistan may have had a role in the slaying.
Sharif had stayed in the United Arab Emirates after leaving Pakistan in August and before travelling on to Kenya.
The report further suggested the bullet that fatally wounded Sharif was fired from either inside the car or from close range. It again did not elaborate.