It was a targeted murder, according to a fact finder

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It was a targeted murder, according to a fact finder
It was a targeted murder, according to a fact finder

A two-member fact-finding team consisting of officers from the Intelligence Bureau (IB) and Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) has concluded that the murder of senior journalist Arshad Sharif was a planned targeted assassination that purportedly involved “transnational characters” according to the investigation.

According to the report submitted by the investigators to the five-member bench of the Supreme Court of Kenya headed by Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial, the investigators contested the version put forth by the Kenyan police, which described the killing of Mr Sharif as “an unfortunate case of mistaken identity”.

As the report notes, it cannot be ruled out that there was a transnational role played by characters in Kenya, Dubai, and Pakistan in the assassination.

There were a number of discrepancies in the report regarding the events surrounding the death of Mr Sharif and the report also noted contradictions in the statements of the owner of ARY, Salman Iqbal, in relation to the case.

According to the Nairobi General Services Unit’s (GSU’s) report, the officers of the GSU fired nine bullets at Mr Sharif’s vehicle, using an AK-47 and a local Gilboa rifle in order to hit his vehicle. There is only one fire (sic) whose trajectory does not match the firing pattern and is not part of the firing pattern, however, the report added.

During the investigation, it was discovered that “there are no penetration marks on the seat of Arshad Sharif, but he was hit from the back, and the bullet exited from the right side of his chest”. There does not seem to be a correlation between that and his sitting position, the gunners’ positions, as well as the line of fire, and it is described as a “closed range fire” by the report.

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There was astonishment among the investigators when they noticed that the “driver’s side door and window were undamaged, and the driver’s seat was absolutely free of blood splatters, which is remarkable because one of the injuries suffered by Mr Sharif was a head wound that caused his skull to shatter and spread hair, blood and bone particles over the passenger seat, the roof of the car and even on the rear passenger seat of the car.”

In addition to the reasons that led Arshad Sharif to leave Pakistan, the report also outlined the registration of a dozen FIRs that compelled him to flee the country. According to the article, there was a possibility that the journalist would have to leave Dubai if there was a forced departure.

There is a link between Waqar and the spy agencies

It was noted that Waqar, a contractor of the US Embassy in Nairobi, had connections with the Kenyan National Intelligence Service (NIS), as well as international intelligence agencies and the police, when the investigators investigated Mr Sharif’s host.

It said that Waqar was also known to a Pakistani politician and a senior official of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) in Islamabad and when he was asked for CCTV footage of the residence of Mr Sharif, he replied that he made it conditional with the nod of the official of the spy agency.

Specifically, the report stated that “the fact that he turned over the personal cell phone and iPad of Arshad Sharif to an NIS officer rather than to police establishes the fact that he has links with the NIS”. There is a possibility of transnational characters being present in this case in light of the fact that he is linked to national and international agencies, as per the report.

Similarly, the report raised questions about Waqar’s brother, Khurram, who was driving the ill-fated Land Cruiser during the incident, as well. As stated in the report, the “narration presented by Khurram, who was driving the vehicle on the sequence of the crime scene, is contrary to logic and fact”.

Iqbal Salman’s role in the war on terror

In addition to that, there was a lot of detail in the report that shed light on the working relations between Mr Sharif and Salman Iqbal, the owner of ARY.

According to the team, while Salman Iqbal was being interviewed, he directly contradicted Waqar’s version and claimed that he had had no direct contact with Waqar and that he did not know him. The only thing he knew about Vicky was that she was good friends with Tariq Wasi.

As per the investigation report, Mr Iqbal failed to satisfy the investigators regarding his relationship with Waqar, and the team referred all questions related to Waqar’s relationship to Tariq Wasi, the team lead.

In his written response to the FFT questionnaire, he [Tariq Wasi] tended not to be too open or illuminating in his responses. The report goes on to say that many of his responses are contradicted by both Salman Iqbal and Waqar in their reports.

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According to the report, Tariq Wasi, directly linked with Waqar and who arranged for Arshad Sharif to be hosted by Waqar in Kenya, “would also become a key lynchpin for anybody wanting to murder Arshad Sharif” if the case had a transnational angle.

It said Salman Iqbal freely admitted that Waqar was approached to issue a letter of invitation to Arshad Sharif, nevertheless, in the initial days following Arshad Sharif’s death, some news reports, including those of ARY, continued to propagate that Arshad Sharif had gone to Kenya because Kenya had a visa on arrival policy.

The report also mentioned “discrepancies in the timelines” given by Mr Iqbal to the fact-finding team.

“Waqar claims that he called Tariq Wasi to inform him of Arshad Sharif’s death while he was driving from Ammodump camp to Oletepesi farm, essentially within the first thirty minutes of the incident. And it was during the same drive that Salman Iqbal called Waqar to get confirmation of Arshad Sharif’s death”.

However, Salman Iqbal claimed that he did not speak to Waqar till three to four hours after the incident, the report said, adding that Mr Iqbal had “contacted the senior army leadership to inform them of the fact that Arshad Sharif had been killed within an hour of the incident”.

It is not immediately clear why Salman Iqbal created this discrepancy over timelines, it added.

The report recommended the registration of the case with the Counter Terrorism Wing of the FIA under sections of the Pakistan Penal Code and the Anti-Terrorism Act.

Suo motu proceedings

The apex court bench resumed the hearing on the suo motu case regarding the killing of Arshad Sharif earlier in the day. As it took up the case, the top court directed the government to constitute a special joint investigation team (SJIT) to probe the killing of the journalist.

The eight-member team will comprise five police officials, and representatives of the ISI, FIA, and IB. Justice Bandial directed the federal government to notify the members by Thursday.

During the hearing, the mother of the slain journalist also filed an application before the court nominating senior military leadership, officials of the spy agency, and the public relations wing of the armed forces as accused.

The chief justice, after perusal of the application, said that “it could be [a] version of the complainant” and advised her to record a statement before the special JIT.

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