The 49-year-old journalist, who fled Pakistan in August after several complaints were filed against him for criticizing the army, was shot dead in Kenya.
A prominent Pakistani investigative journalist critical of the country’s powerful military has been killed in Kenya nearly two months after leaving Pakistan.
“I lost a friend, a husband and my favorite journalist today, according to the police, he was shot dead in Kenya”, Javeria Siddique tweeted about the death of her husband Arshad Sharif on Sunday evening.
The 49-year-old journalist fled the country in August to avoid arrest after being slapped with multiple cases, including sedition charges about an interview with Shahbaz Gill – a close associate of former Prime Minister Imran Khan – in which Gill made comments deemed offensive to the military.
Alleging harassment by state institutions as well as death threats, he moved to Dubai in August and later moved to Kenya.
The ARY channel Sharif had worked for for eight years was briefly taken off the air in August for airing “false, hateful and seditious” content. Chain announcement in late August, he parted ways with the reporter, who was one of his main prime-time news anchors.
Pakistan’s foreign ministry expressed “sorrow” over the death of Arshad Sharif, adding in the statement that it was in contact with Kenyan officials over the matter.
The ministry confirmed that Pakistan’s envoy to Kenya along with embassy officials had identified the body at Chiromo Funeral Home in Nairobi and were now awaiting further procedures and a police report.
“The High Commission will facilitate the rapid repatriation of Mr. Sharif’s remains in coordination with the host authorities,” the statement said.
Kenyan media quoted local police officials as saying the shooting was a case of “mistaken identity”.
Confirming the incident, Bruno Shioso, spokesman for the Kenya National Police Service, told Al Jazeera that local authorities are currently investigating the killing.
“Our relevant authorities are currently investigating and cannot comment further than this at this time. We will also issue a preliminary statement in due course,” he said.
Kenyan newspaper The Star reported that the car Sharif was traveling in was shot at after failing to stop at a roadblock on the Nairobi-Magadi highway.
The Islamabad High Court has warned the authorities to submit a report on the circumstances of the death as soon as possible.
Sharif, who was once seen as close to Pakistan’s powerful military elite, became a fierce critic after former Prime Minister Khan’s government was ousted in April.
Shocked by the brutal murder of Arshad Sharif who paid the ultimate price for speaking the truth – his life. He had to leave the country and hide abroad, but he continued to tell the truth on social media, exposing the powerful. Today, the entire nation mourns his death.
— Imran Khan (@ImranKhanPTI) October 24, 2022
After news of Sharif’s death surfaced on social media early Monday, condolences poured in from all quarters.
Pakistani President Arif Alvi, who awarded Sharif one of Pakistan’s top civilian awards in 2019, tweeted his condolences and said his death was a great loss for journalism and Pakistan.
Shehbaz Sharif, the Pakistani Prime Minister, also expressed shock at the journalist’s death.
“I am deeply saddened by the shocking news of the tragic death of journalist Arshad Sharif. May Allah SWT grant him a place in Paradise. My sincere condolences and prayers for the bereaved family,” he tweeted Monday morning.
The Pakistan Human Rights Commission has demanded an immediate investigation into Sharif’s death.
“A long and grim record of violent tactics aimed at silencing journalists explains why the reported murder of journalist Arshad Sharif in Kenya has sent shockwaves through the journalist community. The government must open an immediate and transparent investigation into the circumstances of his death,” the organization said in a statement.
Pakistan has a history of media repression and violence against journalists.
Last month, the United States raised concerns about press freedom in Pakistan after Pakistani authorities briefly blocked coverage in August of ARY, seen as sympathetic to former Prime Minister Khan.