Pakistani journalist Arshad Sharif was shot dead in a police check post in Kenya while travelling in a car with another Pakistani. Kenya police have said that a stolen car was reported and when Arshad's car didn't stop at the post, police fired at the car killing him.

However, the cause for the furor in Pakistan is not the unfortunate accident that led to his death but that Arshad Sharif was a journalist who was very critical of the current government and the army. He left Pakistan in August for Kenya after a sedition case was filed against him.

The National assembly of Pakistan, the High Court, The President and the PM have all condoled his death and a full blown judicial investigation has been ordered. His body is to be flown back but the controversy and resentment goes on. Many think his enemies have ordered the kill. Kenya authorities have also ordered an investigation so one will have to wait before more details are known but there is no doubt that media and governance in Pakistan remains dodgy.

Politics, media and death

A petition filed by Advocate Shoaib Razzaq with the Islamabad High Court requested the bench to order the formation of a judicial commission to investigate why the journalist was forced to flee Pakistan, and later the United Arab Emirates.

"The judicial commission may also be directed to liaison with national agencies and the Kenyan agencies and probe into the heinous act which had led to the unwarranted cold-blooded murder of Arshad Sharif".

Meanwhile, ex PM and PTI chief Imran Khan expressed shock at Sharif's death.

Imran Khan said that the journalist had "paid the ultimate price for speaking the truth - his life. He had to leave the country and be in hiding abroad but he continued to speak the truth on social media, exposing the powerful. Today the entire nation mourns his death. We have descended into a state of brutality, unknown in civilized society, indulged in by the powerful against those who dare to criticize and expose wrongdoing."

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) stated that there was a "long, grim record of violent tactics to silence journalists" which is why Sharif's death sent shockwaves throughout the journalist community.

Both President Dr Arif Alvi and Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif have offered condolences. Even the military's public affairs wing issued a condolence message on what it said was the "unexpected death" of the senior journalist. "May Allah raise the ranks of Arshad Sharif," the Inter-Services Public Relations statement said. The National Assembly unanimously passed a resolution for a "fair and transparent" investigation into Sharif's murder.

Cases against Sharif

In 2022, Sharif, and ARY TV CEO Salman Iqbal and others were charged for sedition over an interview of PTI leader Shahbaz Gill broadcast on the channel on Aug 8.

The next day, the TV channel's NOC was re-called citing "adverse reports from agencies" meaning military security agencies. This was however later reversed by the Sindh High Court. The charges included "abetting mutiny, attempting to seduce a soldier, sailor or airman from his duty, wantonly giving provocation with intent to cause riot and statements conducing to public mischief" as per the Pakistan Penal Code.

Police also said that he had also "disrespected" state institutions and uttered statements that attempted to "spread hate in the army and create a hateful atmosphere" on YouTube.

Subsequently, Sharif left the country. He was later "laid off" by ARY digital, his employer.

Sharif was part of a team producing a documentary on corruption and money stashing abroad by the powerful of Pakistan. It was titled "Behind Closed Doors " and remains incomplete.

According to Unesco's figures, 85 journalists have been killed in Pakistan since 1993, with hardly any of the perpetrators punished.

A prisoner of history?

Like many other countries with a weak governance structure, deaths and disappearances are common. In this case, fingers are pointed at the military. Pakistan's current political crisis is also produced by the involvement of the army in politics.

Imran Khan's PTI, now out of power and whose leader's (Shahbaz Gill) interview caused Arshad to flee, came to power at the army's behest. They were also ousted by the army and the current party PML is also in with the same agency's help. The army is not a state institution in Pakistan but the "guarantor" of its sovereignty. The army came in in 1957 to rule directly in Pakistan and never really left. Whether in 1971, when the people of Pakistan cheered the army for their acts, or later when Gen. Zia ruled and made an iron fist using legitimate, the same justification prevails. Now it stays in the back but wields power.

Contesting the state structure itself is different from contesting the ailments that affect Pakistan. The army fights India to ensure its security which is held up as the paramount duty of the state. Hence, criticizing the army will mean criticizing its protector. This system goes back to its history of birth and immediately afterwards. Pakistan has now become the prisoner of its own history.

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