ISLAMABAD (AP) — A plane carrying the body of an outspoken Pakistani journalist who was shot and killed by Nairobi police while living in hiding in Kenya touched down at an airport in Islamabad just after midnight Wednesday, officials said.
Arshad Sharif was killed Sunday night when the car he was in sped up and drove through a checkpoint outside the Kenyan capital and police opened fire. Nairobi police expressed regret over the incident, saying it was a case of “mistaken identity” during a search for a similar car involved in a child abduction case.
Sharif was traveling with another Pakistani resident, Khurram Ahmed, when their car failed to stop — for reasons that remain unclear — despite being flagged down at the checkpoint. Police opened fire and laid chase.
Sharif’s car flipped over and he was shot in the head and killed. His family in Pakistan said Ahmed, who had initially been identified as Sharif’s brother by the Nairobi police, was not a relative but that he was the driver of the car, according to information they received.
There was speculation that Ahmed was hurt and taken to a hospital but officials in Kenya have not announced any details about Ahmed’s condition or whereabouts.
The 50-year-old journalist fled Pakistan in August amid threats to his life. Early Wednesday, his family, friends and government officials received his body at the Islamabad airport.
A Pakistani plane departed from Kenya earlier Tuesday, carrying Sharif’s body, and was expected to land in Pakistan late Tuesday night, Information Minister Maryam Aurangzeb said. On Monday, Pakistani Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif, who is not related to the slain journalist, spoke with Kenyan President William Ruto about the incident.
Pakistani diplomats were in attendance at the Nairobi airport when the plane with Sharif’s remains took off. Later on Tuesday, it stopped in Doha, Qatar, before proceeding on to Pakistan. Sharif’s family said his funeral will be held in Islamabad on Thursday.
Arshad Sharif left Pakistan in August after going into hiding in his own country in July to avoid arrest following a citizen’s complaint against him on allegations of maligning the country’s national institutions, a reference to the military. His whereabouts were not publicly known. Most of his relatives and friends knew only that he had spent time in Dubai, the United Arab Emirates, and London.
A month later, Sharif’s employer — the private ARY Television — fired him, saying he had violated the TV station’s social media policy. His talk show POWERPLAY, which aired on Mondays and Thursdays, was discontinued.
The station had earlier in the year remained critical of Pakistan’s prime minister following the ouster of his predecessor, Imran Khan, in a no-confidence vote in parliament in April. Khan claims he was ousted as part of a U.S. designed plot, a charge both Washington and the Pakistani government deny. Sharif the journalist had been a prominent critic of Khan’s ouster.
Khan on Tuesday announced a convoy of vehicles filled with supporters would descend on Islamabad on Friday from Lahore in a bid to pressure the government to hold snap elections, a demand the government has previously rejected. His announcement comes as the government struggles to provide relief to hundreds of thousands of people displaced by record-breaking floods, which have killed 1,731 people since mid-June.
Earlier, Khan told a gathering of lawyers in the city of Peshawar that he had asked the slain journalist to leave the country as his life was in danger in Pakistan. He paid glowing tribute to Sharif, saying the man enjoyed a good reputation and he was among those journalists who never bowed to pressure.
Pakistani journalists and the international media watchdog Reporters Without Borders have demanded an independent probe into Sharif’s killing while a popular Pakistani anchorperson, Hamid Mir, on Monday said there were contradictions in the Nairobi police statements about the incident.
Later on Tuesday, Pakistan’s prime minister announced an investigation and promised its findings would be shared with the public. The military and Pakistani journalists had also requested that the government launch a probe into the killing.
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