Pakistan Journalist Arshad Sharif Killed in a Case of 'Mistaken Identity', Says Kenyan Police

Sharif, who was critical of the establishment in Pakistan, had multiple cases registered against him. He recently fled the country citing threats to his life. It is not immediately clear when he arrived in Kenya.

Listen to this article:

New Delhi: Kenya’s Nairobi Police on Monday, October 24, said Pakistani journalist Arshad Sharif was shot in the head by the police in a case of “mistaken identity” when they were carrying out a search operation to nab those involved in a case of child abduction, news agency Associated Press reported.

The local police added the car in which Sharif was traveling was similar to the car used by those involved in the kidnapping case while also saying that his car drove through a roadblock without stopping, defying orders of the police.

The death of Sharif which emerged late on Sunday, October 24 evening, sparked widespread protests in Pakistan, calling for an investigation. Initial reports were unclear about how he died.

The news of Sharif’s killing comes amidst reports that two Indians who were part of a digital campaign by Kenyan President William Ruto were killed by the country’s defunct ‘directorate of criminal investigations’ unit. According to The Times of India, Zulfiqar Ahmad Khan and his friend Mohamed Zaid Sami Kidwai went missing in Kenya in July and were killed by the disbanded directorate of criminal investigations unit.

As for Sharif, he worked for many years as a prime-time television news show host for ARY News in Pakistan and had recently fled the country citing threats to his life. It was not immediately clear when he had arrived in Kenya.

A Kenyan police watchdog has said it is investigating the incident, which happened at 10 pm on Sunday evening on the outskirts of the capital, Nairobi. A senior police officer told The Star, a Kenyan newspaper, that the shooting was being treated as a case of “mistaken identity”.

The police report said a relative of Sharif had been driving the car. It said police had formed the roadblock by placing small stones across the road, but the car drove through without stopping, even after officers opened fire. Nine bullets hit the car, and one hit Sharif in the head.

Kenya’s Independent Police Oversight Authority (IPOA), a civilian watchdog, has started an investigation into Sharif‘s killing, IPOA’s chairwoman Ann Makori told journalists in a news conference on Monday.

“There’s an alleged police killing of a Pakistani national at Tinga market, Kajiado county, last evening. Our rapid response team has already been dispatched,” she said.

Pakistan’s foreign ministry said its high commissioner in Kenya was in touch with Kenyan police and the foreign office and a police report is awaited.

“I lost friend, husband and my favourite journalist,” his wife, Javeria Siddique, said on Twitter, asking for media to respect the family’s privacy.

Sharif‘s death sparked widespread reaction on social media in Pakistan from officials, journalists and others.

“I am deeply saddened by the shocking news of journalist Arshad Sharif‘s tragic death,” Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif said on Twitter. The two Sharifs are not related.

Former prime minister Imran Khan also condemned the death and said Sharif had been murdered for his journalistic work. He called for a judicial investigation into the incident.

Multiple cases were registered against Sharif, for his work was seen as critical of the establishment in Pakistan. In May, DAWN reported that following a discussion with fellow journalist Matiullah Jan on a YouTube channel, two FIRs had been registered against Sharif in Pakistan’s Hyderabad and Karachi, under sections of the Pakistani Penal Code that charge him with “disrespecting” state institutions and attempting to “spread hate in the army.”

Jan is known for his critical views against the military establishment of Pakistan. In 2020, he had been abducted from Islamabad and was released after 12 hours.

In April, the Islamabad High Court ordered Pakistan’s Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) and Islamabad police to stop harassing Sharif against his counsel’s claim that the FIA had illegally detained him.

Arshad had been a news anchor at the channel ARY. In August, Sharif, along with executives and journalists at the ARY channel were booked for sedition over an interview with Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf leader Shahbaz Gill.

Shortly afterwards Sharif’s stint at ARY ended. DAWN has noted that the company expected “its employees’ conduct on social media to be in line with the company policy” without specifying a social media post in particular.

Sharif had left Pakistan for Dubai, and according to reports, he was also in London for a while.

Several journalists of Pakistan, including of ARY, have tweeted condolences.

(With inputs from Reuters)

Note: This copy, first published at 9:36 am on October 24, was updated with the official response of Nairobi Police on the same day at 6:25 pm.