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Sunday, April 14, 2024

Profession of Journalism under attack in Pakistan

Late Arshad Sharif was famous for his work as a political commentator and an investigative journalist on white-collar crime and corruption. He was associated with different news media outlets in Pakistan.

According to the Kenyan newspaper, The Nation, Arshad Sharif was killed by a local law-enforcement agency southwest of Nairobi near a conservation area dedicated to the endangered Rüppell’s vultures. Late Arshad Sharif was famous for his work as a political commentator and an investigative journalist on white-collar crime and corruption. He was associated with different news media outlets in Pakistan. In his brief, but illustrious, a career he was never associated with the National Geographic Society, Discovery Channel, or World Wildlife Fund, which makes his admirers wonder what he was doing in an area dedicated exclusively to a rare species of vultures.

Arshad Sharif was let go without a cause by his longtime employer, a major news channel, in Pakistan just a few weeks before his death, purportedly at the behest of the new government. Following that, he started receiving death threats from unknown sources and several frivolous cases of sedition were registered against him. He wrote to the Supreme Court and the president of the country to make them aware of the circumstances and ask for security. Arshad Sharif was being targeted because of his investigative reports and influential political commentary against those in power.

Read more: Slain journalist Arshad Sharif gets heroic welcome in Pakistan

The powerful were not enthused to do anything about his legitimate fears

As a consequence, he was on the run looking for security. He initially took refuge in UAE. Reports suggest that he was forced out of the emirate with threats of extradition to Pakistan, where the recent change in regime had further compromised the judicial system. None of the political victims or journalists who were prosecuted at the behest of the new government received any relief or protection from the courts. Arshad had little or no options left. He took refuge in the East African country because Kenya is one of the few nations that would allow Pakistani citizens in without a visa.

His brutal targeted killing in an area that is reserved for an endangered species of vultures makes his loved ones and family wish he had never gone so close to the vulture’s habitat. Vultures are scary-looking, large, flesh-eating birds that are famous for taking every little piece of meat off the bones. Vultures scavenge corpses and they are not predators themselves. According to The Nation newspaper report, Arshad Sharif was obviously not killed by the Güppell’s vultures because he had a bullet hole in the back of his head. It is common knowledge that the vultures do not carry firearms and they are not capable of operating them either.

Around this conservation area in Africa and elsewhere, there are law enforcement agencies that are assigned the duty to protect endangered animals. The law enforcement officers assigned to protect the Güppell vultures in the Magadi area in Kenya do carry firearms and they also know how to operate them. The conservation officers take a solemn oath to protect the vultures.

Anyone who threatens these endangered vultures or even comes close to them can receive a bullet in the back of their head from a short distance. According to reports Arshad Sharif did not threaten any Güppell vultures but his mere presence in the vicinity and his potential inside knowledge about the flesh-eating birds was perceived by the custodians of the vultures as a threat of such magnitude that deserved an instant death penalty.

Read more: Maryam Nawaz apologises, deletes insensitive tweet on Arshad Sharif

Alas! Arshad Sharif should not have come so close to the vultures. He knew better than that. He knew that other media commentators, news reporters and investigative journalists in Pakistan, who even threatened to be approaching the vultures paid a heavy price in the past. Several of them faced the exact same fate that Arshad did on the dreadful day of October 23rd, 2022.

We all know that none of the other victims of the vultures were on the road leading from Kwenia in Magadi, precisely the area where only the endangered Güppell vultures are allowed to lurk. Arshad Sharif was so close to the vultures that he could smell the dead bodies they were eating. This was unacceptable to the vultures and their custodians. In the vulture’s world, Arshad Sharif got what he deserved.



Dr. Hameed Ahmad is an Assistant Professor of Nephrology at the University of Missouri Kansas City, School of Medicine. The views expressed in the article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.