Pakistani journalist's murder in Kenya may not be a case of mistaken identity

Screenshot of the slain Pakistani journalist Arshad Sharif from YouTube video by Arshad Sharif Official Channel. Fair use.

Screenshot of the slain Pakistani journalist Arshad Sharif from YouTube video by Arshad Sharif Official Channel. Fair use.

Many in Pakistan were shocked to hear that outspoken 49-year-old Pakistani investigative journalist and anchorperson Arshad Sharif had been shot and killed by Kenyan police on October 23, 2022, in a case of “mistaken identity.” Pakistan's Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif announced a committee would be formed to investigate the circumstances of Sharif's murder. Media in both countries, netizens and lawmakers are questioning the official narrative provided by the Kenyan government, which they believe has been implicated.

A case of mistaken identity?

According to the official Kenyan police statement, Sharif was shot in the head by Kenyan police along the Nairobi-Magadi highway on the evening of October 23 after he and his driver allegedly breached a roadblock.

According to police, at the roadblock, there was a call for police to intercept a car similar to the one they were driving following a carjacking incident in Pangani, Nairobi, where a child was taken hostage.

However, the police statements, which mentioned a “mistaken identity,” have raised more questions than answers.

Kenyan journalist Eliud Kilbii released a Twitter thread suggesting the Kenyan police statement on the killing was inconsistent.

Kenyan journalist Brian Obuya tweeted:

Kenyan media outlets went on to point out the inconsistencies in police accounts of Arshad Sharif's killing.

“The killing has opened a floodgate of questions,” reported Ayub Sh AbKadir of Kenya's Citizen TV:

  • Did the police actually attempt to stop the vehicle?
  • Did occupants defy the order?
  • Why did the police open fire when the occupants were not shooting at them?
  • Why did the police not shoot the vehicle’s tyres to immobilize it instead of (using) lethal force?

Kenyans online continue to question these anomalies as well as the objectivity of the Pakistani government, which announced an inquiry into the plot and killing of Sharif. Obuya mentioned:

Some Pakistanis also suggested that as Sharif was critical of the Pakistani military establishment and political hegemony, they may have had a hand in his untimely death.

Sharif fled Pakistan in August to avoid arrest after being subjected to lawsuits, including sedition charges, for his interviewing politically sensitive individuals.

Pakistani journalist Anas Mallick tweeted:

He also commented that Pakistani journalists are not safe anywhere

Who was Arshad Sharif and why was he on the run?

Arshad Sharif was a popular host of the program “Power Play” on the Pakistani TV channel ARY News and previously worked for the news channels Aaj News and Dunya TV. He was known for his thorough investigative journalism, and he did many political exposes in the country for national and international news organisations.

In August 2022, his employer ARY News was briefly taken off the air by the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) for allegedly airing “hateful, seditious and malicious content.” ARY, one of the biggest private TV channels, is known for supporting the former prime minister Imran Khan, who was ousted in a no-confidence vote after losing the majority in parliament. Since then, Khan has been critical of the military and the current political establishment, alleging that his supporters are being harassed and persecuted.

Imran Khan said in a statement that Sharif “paid the ultimate price for speaking the truth.”

He also said:

Sharif’s wife, Javeria Siddique, requested the public respect their privacy and not share family pictures that were being shared on social media.

Journalists in Pakistan have been under a lot of pressure from the state, and many have lost their jobs for being critical of the government and military. According to the media advocacy group Reporters Without Borders (RSF), Pakistan ranked 157 out of 180 countries in the 2022 press freedom index. Three Pakistani journalists were killed in 2021, as per an International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) report.

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