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Pakistan Suggests Killing Of Journalist In Kenya Was Targeted

Arshad Sharif was allegedly killed by police last month after the vehicle he was in sped up instead of halting at a roadblock near the capital, Nairobi.

Pakistan says evidence suggests the shooting of a prominent Pakistani journalist who was living in Kenya may have been an assassination as media watchdog Reporters Without Borders called for an independent United Nations probe into the incident.

Arshad Sharif was allegedly killed by police last month after the vehicle he was in sped up instead of halting at a roadblock near the capital, Nairobi. Police have described the shooting as a case of “mistaken identity" during a search for a similar car involved in a case of child abduction.

But Pakistan's interior minister, Rana Sanaullah, on November 8 rejected that explanation, saying "on the evidence we have so far, this prima facie is a targeted killing."

"We still need to obtain more [evidence] to confirm all this...and we have asked the Kenyan government for more data," he added.

Sharif, 49, an outspoken critic of Pakistan’s powerful military establishment, had been living in Kenya after leaving his home country to avoid arrest on sedition charges. He was also known as a supporter of former Prime Minister Imran Khan, who was ousted in a parliamentary no-confidence vote in April.

Nairobi police said Sharif was fatally shot in the head late on October 23 after the car he was traveling in with his brother, Khurram Ahmed, drove through a roadblock set up on the Nairobi-Magadi highway to check vehicles along the key route.

The two ignored police orders to stop and sped up, the police said. Police opened fire and laid chase, during which his car turned over, they added.

A Kenyan police watchdog has said it is investigating the incident, but Reporters Without Borders (RSF) on November 8 accused the Kenyan authorities of wasting time since the shooting.

“The information currently emerging from the Kenyan wing of the investigation is contradictory and all independent attempts to get information are met with a wall of silence,” said Sadibou Marong, the director of RSF's sub-Saharan Africa bureau.

Added Daniel Bastard, the head of RSF’s Asia-Pacific desk: “The potential conflicts of interest are such on both the Kenyan and Pakistani sides that we are calling on the United Nations special rapporteur on extrajudicial executions, Morris Tidball-Binz, to launch an investigation with an independent international team to shed all possible light on this shocking case.”

In August, Pakistan’s ARY news channel aired Sharif’s interview with opposition politician Shahbaz Gill, who said junior officers in the armed forces should not follow orders that went against "the will of the majority.”

The comment led to the news channel being briefly taken off air and an arrest warrant being issued for Sharif. He left the country.

The news channel later said it had "cut ties" with the journalist. Gill was detained following the interview.

Criticism of the security establishment has long been seen as a red line in Pakistan, which has been ruled by the military for several decades of its 75-year history.

Pakistan is ranked 157 out of 180 countries in a press freedom index by Reporters Without Borders, with journalists facing censorship and intimidation.