Outrage after Pakistani dissident journalist shot dead in Kenya – The Organization for World Peace
Protests, outrage and condemnation are raging across Pakistan as the body of journalist Arshad Sharif is brought back from Kenya, where he was shot dead by Kenyan security forces in an apparent case of mistaken identity. Thousands of Pakistanis attended his funeral at the Faisal Mosque in Islamabad, with AlJazeera reporting that many carried flags for former Prime Minister Imran Khan’s Pakistani party Tehreek-e-Insaf and shouted slogans like “Arshad, your blood will usher in the revolution!”
Khan himself told the Daily schedules Sharif was a “patriot who never compromised his conscience”, saying “if the nation does not support him, there will be no difference between us and the animals”.
Pakistan’s current administration, including President Arif Alvi and Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif (no relation to Arshad Sharif), expressed condolences over the murder. According to the Pakistani News Agency DawnOn Monday, the government approved the establishment of a three-person commission to investigate the details of Sharif’s death, with the announcement saying Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif himself sanctioned the commission.
Kenyan authorities say Sharif refused to stop at a roadblock meant to catch a kidnapper on the loose, whose car they say was similar to Sharif’s, prompting their response. Kenyan police are now promising that the Independent Police Oversight Authority of Kenya will carry out a thorough investigation.
Pakistan is one of the most dangerous countries in the world for journalists, with monitoring NGO The Journalists Protection Committee rank them 9e in the world in their Global Impunity Index 2021, ahead of countries like Russia. Sharif was a figure close to former Prime Minister Khan, who went into hiding in Kenya after speaking out against Shehbaz Sharif’s Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party and the Pakistani military. Many in Pakistan believe his death was a political assassination and not an accident as authorities suggest.
AlJazeera quoted several mourners present at Sharif’s funeral, including Qaiser Mustafa, who said Sharif, “was brave and honest and someone who was able to speak truth to power, and they decided to silence him” . Mustafa continued, “We have a love affair with the military and people trust them… But after April, everything changed. We realized we were being played. We all make mistakes and learn from them, and maybe Arshad also learned and evolved his point of view.
Sharif’s death comes as Pakistan faces a twin crisis in the form of a struggling economy and a bitterly polarized political struggle between former Prime Minister Imran Khan and the current government. Khan was ousted from power earlier this year following a vote of no confidence and has since been highly critical of the government of Shehbaz Sharif that replaced him, accusing Sharif of conspiring with the United States and the army to depose him. The 21stKhan was banned by Pakistan’s electoral commission from holding office for five years, but a week later announced a march from the city of Lahore to the capital Islamabad to demand a snap election, which otherwise would not would not take place until next year.
As painful economic turmoil fuels unrest and Khan publicly opposes the current government, Arshad Sharif’s death will only inflame tensions along Pakistan’s delicate political fault lines. A prompt and transparent investigation by the Kenyan and Pakistani governments could be a necessary first step in uncovering the true circumstances of Sharif’s death so that the people of Pakistan can begin to trust their government again. But against the backdrop of Khan’s anti-government rhetoric, the murder will almost certainly remain politicized long after the investigations conclude their findings.