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Mourning the death of Journalist Arshad Sharif

The 49-year-old journalist fled the country in August to avoid arrest after he was slapped with multiple cases, including sedition charges over an interview with PTI leader Shahbaz Gill during which the latter had made controversial comments.

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Well-known and popular journalist Arshad Sharif reportedly died in Nairobi last night either in a car accident or as a result of a bullet fired by an unknown sniper. The news is tragic and depressing and all and sundry in Pakistan are expressing their grief over his sudden departure from this mortal world under heartbreaking conditions. I express my heartfelt condolences over his demise and pray that his soul rests in peace and is granted a place in heaven. I also pray for his near and dear ones that may Allah grant them patience to bear this huge loss.

Arshad Sharif has left behind five kids and a mother who requested the media and the general public to refrain from speculations and spreading rumors about his death. Her only desire is the earliest return of his body and his honorable burial at the Islamabad graveyard where her elder son and her husband, both from the military are buried.

Read more: Flight carrying body of Arshad Sharif to land in Islamabad early Oct 26

Arshad’s wife Javeria Siddiqui confirmed the news on Twitter and urged the media and the public not to share their family pictures, personal detail, and Arshad’s last pictures snapped in the hospital. Visitors thronged the house of the deceased today and messages of condolences poured in from all quarters including the top leaders.

Speculations

According to the initial reports in the media, Arshad was assassinated by an unknown sniper while he was driving back to Nairobi from a place two hours away and was sitting on the second seat and his driver was driving the car. The bullet probably hit his head and he died instantly.

Arshad’s father Naval Commander M. Sharif had died of a heart attack in 2011. His elder brother Maj Ashraf Sharif serving in AMC was unfortunately martyred by the terrorists while he was on his way from the combat zone to bury his father. Both were buried together under the supervision of Arshad Sharif.

Arshad was well-educated, well-groomed and a seasoned journalist. He emerged as a popular anchor because of his suave style of delivery and his forthrightness. He was among the top journalists and anchor persons and earned fame due to his research-based investigative journalism.

Late Arshad was a true patriot

He was patriotic, decent and sensible and refrained from indulging in cheap theatrics. He was awarded Presidential Pride of Performance for his outstanding journalism in 2019.

Due to his military background, he had a great liking for the military. He had recorded many programs, took interviews of the officers and men deployed in the battle zones, intermingled with them and would enjoy having tea and food with them. The ISPR gladly arranged his visits in army helicopters/C-130. He helped in negating the vile propaganda against the army by the vested groups due to which he was liked and respected by the army of all ranks.

Read more: US strongly condemns killing of journalist Arshad Sharif

A gradual change came in his reporting because of the influence of the ARY where he was employed and had progressed. The ARY has a history of antagonism against senior leadership of the army and its professional rivalry with the Geo News. The ARY came under the influence of PTI before, during and after its rule and has all along glorified PTI and demonized PML-N and PPP leadership as well as the religious clerics.

Like Sami Ibrahim, Shakir Shah Arif Bhatti and few others, Arshad also joined the bandwagon of anti-establishment journalists and the PDM as well as the state institutions. Arshad’s program ‘Power Play’ on ARY became very popular due to his boldness and forceful style of presentation. This program had a role in sensationalizing the Panama case and in influencing the minds of the Special JIT and the Supreme Court Bench under Chief Justice Saqib Nisar which led to the disqualification and later conviction of Nawaz Sharif.

The diatribes of ARY and other pro-PTI TV channels like Bol TV intensified after the regime change in April 2022. Rise of the popularity of Imran Khan and his offensive posturing against Gen Bajwa and the PDM leaders catapulting the emotions of his fans gave heart to the TV channels and the social media engaged in a smear campaign in league with PTI’s media cell, connected with international media network to audaciously defame the army chief and other generals.

It must not be forgotten that the electronic media in Pakistan had suddenly shot up from a single media house to over 100 channels within two to three years in the early 2000s, and several channels were hijacked by foreign powers. The selected channels, anchors and journalists were heavily funded and made to work on their anti-Pakistan agenda.

Pakistan media joined by social media have played a big role in selling the tutored themes and narratives, and in building choice perceptions with a view to cloning the minds of the selected audiences. The political parties also played their part to bribe and win over TV channels in order to promote their political causes and to demean their rival parties.

Like tens of thousands of cult followers of IK, Arshad Sharif too fell under the magic spell of IK. His fondness for the icon grew after the regime change when IK played up the US conspiracy narrative and held Gen Bajwa responsible for his ouster. His program “Wo Kaun Tha” became very popular among the PTI’s rank and file and its supporters, and an eyesore for others who were hit hard. Arshad also uncovered the misdeeds of the NAB and the wrongs of the Sharifs. The PTI loved Imran Riaz and Arshad Sharif.

Read more: Kenyan President expresses regret over Arshad Sharif’s death, ensures justice

After the hardening of PEMRA rules and restrictions and fines imposed on few media channels including ARY, Arshad was dismissed from ARY on 01 Sept under pressure from the state authorities. Fearing arrest and danger to his life, like few other journalists, Arshad quietly shifted to Dubai where he was employed as the senior anchor and president of a group in Bol TV.

Finding himself unsafe there, he shifted to London in the first week of Oct but kept his location hidden from everyone. Few weeks back, he moved to Nairobi in order to complete his explosive investigative documentary on corruption, titled “Behind Closed Doors”, in cooperation with Kenyan journalist John Allan Namu. The documentary sponsored by Netflix was due to be released in the next five days.

Segment of journalists and the PTI allies are viewing the tragedy differently

They are trying to draw political mileage out of it by putting the blame of death on their detractors. A petition has been moved on behalf of the mother of Arshad and a demand for a judicial commission has been made to find out the real facts.

I just spoke to the chief editor of Bitter Truth in London Dr. Samiullah Malik, who informed me that he had spoken to the Press Attaché of Kenya at Nairobi who is an old friend of his, to find out the details of the death of Arshad Sharif.

The Attaché informed him that Arshad was returning from Magadi town to Nairobi in a taxi on the Nairobi-Magadi motorway on which the police had established a blockade at Kajiado to check the traveling vehicles for security reasons. The police deployed at the roadblock said that there was a call from the mobile police to intercept a car similar to the one which was shot at, following the carjacking incident in the Pangani area.

Read more: Kenyan police claim journalist Arshad Sharif was shot in “mistaken identity” case

On giving a signal to stop, when the car didn’t stop and drove past the roadblock, it was chased by the police and fired at, due to which the second-seater Arshad died. He said the news has been published in Kenya’s official newspaper The Star and is a case of mistaken identity, and is under investigation. The Kenyan Police is notorious for extra judicial killings.

 

The writer is a retired Brig Gen, war veteran, international columnist, defense, security & political analyst, and author of five books. He can be contacted at asifharoonraja@gmail.com. The views expressed in the article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.