Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Justice Umar Ata Bandial on Tuesday took suo motu notice of the murder of senior journalist Arshad Sharif.
Notices have been issued to the secretaries of departments of interior, foreign affairs, and information and broadcasting, directors general of Federal Investigation Agency, and Intelligence Bureau, and Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ).
Headed by Chief Justice Bandial, a five-member bench will preside over the proceedings.
The apex court is set to hear the matter at 12:30 pm.
A press release issued by the Supreme Court read: “The journalist community in the country and the public at large are deeply distressed and concerned about the death of the senior journalist and are seeking the court’s scrutiny of the matter.”
Earlier this week, a fact-finding committee formed by the government of Pakistan revealed that Arshad was deliberately killed. His attackers were aware who he was.
Officials prepared a report which claimed that Arshad was not killed due to mistaken identity as a kidnapper, maintaining that his murder was planned.
The journalist community, politicians, and activists have been demanding a high-level probe into the killing of a defiant journalist, over reports that he was forced to leave his homeland and moved to Kenya, where he was killed.
Last week, former prime minister and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan wrote a letter to the chief justice demanding a judicial inquiry into the killing of Arshad.
In the letter, Imran demanded that the chief justice constitute a ‘free’ judicial commission to investigate the murder of senior journalist. Thousands of Pakistani citizens have written letters to the Chief Justice of Pakistan, demanding justice for the journalist.
On November 2, the mother of Arshad had also written to the CJP, requesting the formation of a high-powered judicial commission to investigate the murder.
DECISION WELCOMED: Meanwhile, politicians welcomed the SC’s decision to take suo motu notice of Sharif’s killing, highlighting the apex court’s role in protecting human rights.
PTI leader Fawad Chaudhry hailed the decision, saying: “The people expect the SC and the judges to stand up for basic human rights despite pressure for the sovereignty of the Constitution, and to protect human rights.”
Awami Muslim League (AML) chief Sheikh Rashid Ahmed also welcomed the development, predicting that several “hidden faces” would be unmasked during the trial.
“The nation is also looking towards the SC regarding the attack on Imran Khan and the Azam Swati case.” He advised the coalition government to prepare for the next general election instead of working on disqualifying the PTI chief.
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, while speaking at an event organised by Islamabad Journalist Safety Forum moments before the SC’s statement was released, said he had spoken to the Kenyan president regarding Sharif’s killing.
He said Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari had been in contact with the authorities concerned, while he himself had spoken to agencies in Pakistan for speedy action. “I have also written a letter to the CJP to constitute a commission [to probe the case] and I hope action will be taken in this regard.”
The premier also stated that no journalist or human rights defender should be attacked for exercising freedom of expression guaranteed under the Constitution.
THE MURDER: Sharif had left Pakistan in August after a number of cases were registered against him. It was reported that he was initially staying in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) after which he went to Kenya, where he was shot dead.
Initially, Kenyan media had quoted the local police as saying Sharif was shot dead by police in a case of “mistaken identity”.
But later reports from the Kenyan media reconstructed the events surrounding the killing, stating that an occupant in Sharif’s car at the time of his killing was believed to have shot at paramilitary General Service Unit (GSU) officers.
The Pakistan government subsequently formed a team that travelled to Kenya to investigate the killing.