A prominent Pakistani journalist and former anchorperson Arshad Sharif was ‘mistakenly’ shot dead by the police in Kenya, his wife confirmed on Monday. The journalist, living in self-exile, was reportedly working on an assignment to expose corruption in the powerful quarters of Pakistan before he was gunned down.
“I lost friend, husband and my favourite journalist [Arshad Sharif] today, as per police he was shot in Kenya,” Sharif’s spouse, Javeria Siddique, tweeted.
Sharif’s death is still shrouded in mystery – some in the Pakistani media initially claimed that he had died in an accident, while others claimed he had been shot dead. His family later confirmed that the Kenyan police had shot him dead, mistaking him for a culprit of grand theft auto.
Arshad Sharif was recently involved in a beef with the authorities over a tweet criticizing the Pakistani military. He was booked on charges of sedition, alongside ARY executives, which let him go. Sensing that his life was in danger in Pakistan, Sharif fled to Kenya in search of a refuge that eventually met his end.
“At the time of the incident, deceased [Arshad Sharif] was in the company of his brother namely Khurram Ahmed. The Incident follows a circulation from Pangani Police of a stolen motor vehicle. The officers trailing the motor vehicle towards Magadi alerted police in Magadi who erected a road barrier,” it said.
The police said his vehicle “drove through” a makeshift barricade – a bunch of rocks lined up on the road. The police opened fire on the vehicle, fatally injuring Sharif, who was sitting in the front seat. A bullet had reportedly entered the backside of his head and exited from the front.
Fellow journalists and Sharif’s colleagues expressed shock and dismay over his murder. Kashif Abbasi, Sharif’s colleague at ARY News, called his death “beyond heartbreaking.”
“My brother, my friend, my colleague Arshad Shareef was shot dead in Kenya … I still can’t believe it. It’s beyond heartbreaking. This is just wrong … this is painful … I love u brother,” he tweeted.
“Unbelievable. May Allah rest the soul of Arshad Sharif in peace. Ameen,” senior journalist Hamid Mir tweeted.
Veteran journalist Kamran Khan expressed dismay over the “ASTONISHING” development, calling the authorities to thoroughly investigate the incident and “get us facts.”
Pakistan ranks 157 out of 180 in the journalism independence index of the Reporters Without Border, a Paris-based watchdog. It is widely considered a dangerous country for journalists, owing to its chequered history of violence against investigative journalism.
Prominent journalist Hamid Mir was shot several times in Karachi in 2014 after he invited Baloch rights activists Mama Qadeer Baloch and Farzana Majeed to his show, despite being explicitly warned not to. He still carries three bullets in his body, which he says are souvenirs of his work.
Human rights groups claim that in recent years, Pakistan has started hunting journalists and political dissidents abroad. Baloch journalist Sajid Hussain was allegedly killed by Pakistani intelligence agencies in Sweden in March 2020. His alleged killing was followed by the death of prominent Baloch rights activist Karima Baloch, who died under ‘mysterious’ circumstances in Toronto.