ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court of Pakistan Tuesday ordered the government to register a first information report (FIR) of the murder of journalist Arshad Sharif and submit the report of the fact-finding committee today.
Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial issued the directives today during the hearing of the suo motu notice of the journalist’s killing in Kenya.
A five-member bench including CJP Bandial, Justice Ijaz Ul Ahsan, Justice Jamal Khan Mandokhail, Justice Mazahar Ali Akbar Naqvi, and Justice Muhammad Ali Mazhar is hearing the case.
“The journalist community in the country and the public at large are deeply distressed and concerned about the death of the senior journalist and are seeking the court’s scrutiny of the matter,” said the apex court in a statement announcing the suo motu action. It had also announced that it would hold a hearing today.
The court had issued notices to the interior secretary, foreign secretary, information secretary, director generals of the Federal Investigation Authority (FIA), Intelligence Bureau, and president of the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists.
At the outset of the hearing, CJP Bandial asked Additional Attorney General Amir Rehman about the fact-finding committee report.
“Since receiving a letter from Arshad Sharif’s mother, the SC human rights cell is investigating the matter. The Interior Ministry had to submit a report of the fact-finding committee last Friday,” remarked the CJP.
He added that the court is yet to receive the report.
“Should we summon the interior minister? Where is the interior minister?” asked the CJP.
At this, the additional attorney general informed the court that the report will be submitted tomorrow.
“Wasting time in the investigation is the government’s habit, not the Supreme Court’s,” said the CJP in response, adding that Sharif was a well-known journalist.
“Why was Arshad Sharif murdered, and in a foreign country?” asked the CJP.
He added that the country has vast resources.
“Mr attorney general it’s been a long time since the fact-finding committee has returned, why has the final report of the commission not yet been received by the Supreme Court?” asked the top judge.
He also wondered what was the reason behind the delay.
The CJP stated that the medical report the court received were “unsatisfactory”, adding that every life must be considered important. He added that senior doctors prepared the medical report but it was not satisfactory.
“Mistreatment of journalists cannot be tolerated under any circumstances. In Pakistan, journalists are the voice of truth,” said Justice Bandial.
At this, the AAG intervened and informed the court that Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah was in Faisalabad when the report came and once he sees it, the report will be forwarded to the apex court.
The court then directed the ministry to submit the report today.
The CJP also added that the court was waiting for the report for more than 40 days, adding that the five-member bench was formed considering the seriousness of the situation.
“Since October 23, the court has only received medical reports,” said the CJP.
At this point, Justice Mazhar intervened and asked whether an investigation was ongoing in Kenya.
While Justice Ahsan noted that the journalist was murdered suspiciously in Kenya.
“What steps have the foreign ministry taken as of yet?” he asked.
Foreign Secretary Asad Majeed shared that Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif had spoken to the Kenyan president. He added that the Pakistani high commissioner in Kenya was also in touch with the relevant officials.
However, the official added that he was unaware of the progress made in the case so far.
After hearing the secretary, CJP Bandial wondered why a criminal case was not registered in Pakistan.
“How will the investigations in Pakistan be held when the FIR has not been registered?” asked the judge.
To this, the interior secretary told the court that the decision to file a case will be made after reviewing the fact-finding report.
However, Justice Mazahar Ali Naqvi and Justice Ahsan raised questions on the government’s approach in the case.
Justice Jamal Khan Mandokhail remarked that it is a test case for the Foreign Ministry.
Meanwhile, CJP Bandial remarked that journalists are the source of information. He added that when he visited Kenya years ago he got to know about the big Pakistani community in the African nation.
“People have a lot of concerns related to the case. All facts in this regard must be brought to the people,” remarked the CJP.
The court directed the registration of the FIR of the murder by tonight and also directed the ministry to submit the fact-finding committee’s report today.
After issuing the directives the case was adjourned till tomorrow (December 7).
PTI and other political parties have constantly been asking the Supreme Court to look into Sharif’s death.
PM Shehbaz has also written to the CJP for the formation of a judicial commission to investigate Sharif’s killing. A demand was also made by the slain journalist’s mother.
PTI welcomes suo motu notice
PTI leader Fawad Chaudhry welcomed the Supreme Court’s decision, saying the people expected the judges to stand up for the supremacy of the constitution and protect human rights despite pressures. PM welcomes suo motu notice
After the hearing, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif welcomed Supreme Court suo motu notice of the murder.
“I had already written a letter to Honorable Chief Justice of Pakistan for setting up a Judicial Commission to probe the murder. The government will extend full cooperation to the Court,” tweeted the premier. The statement was issued a couple of hours before the SC hearing, PM Shehbaz spoke at an event in Islamabad related to journalists’ safety in the country.
The premier said his government believes that no journalists should be called out or attacked for exercising their freedom of expression as guaranteed under the constitution of Pakistan.
He termed the killing of prominent journalist Arshad Sharif an “extremely sad incident” and said that he soon after spoke to the government of Kenya and later wrote a letter to the CJP to form a judicial commission.
Sharif was killed on the night of October 23 in Kenya by the Kenyan GSU officers in mysterious circumstances as he was being driven to Nairobi.
The Kenyan police have claimed that the journalist was shot in a case of mistaken identity, however, the details that emerged later contradicted the claims.
The Pakistani government had formed a two-member team, including the Federal Investigative Agency (FIA) and Intelligence Bureau (IB) officials, to probe the murder.
The team traveled to Kenya and UAE to gather evidence and prepared a report which has been submitted to the Interior Ministry.