Arshad Sharif, thorn in Pakistani government’s side

Pakistani journalist Arshad Sharif

Pakistani journalist Arshad Sharif. 

Photo credit: Courtesy | Arshad Sharif's Facebook profile

The impeachment of Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan on April 10, 2022 seemed to have turned journalist Arshad Sharif’s world upside down and drawn irony to the last few months of his life.

He had previously claimed that some journalists critical of Mr Khan’s administration were seeking asylum. Four months after Mr Khan’s impeachment, Sharif was forced to seek asylum because his life had been threatened following his publication of stories critical of the new administration.

The journalist, one of Pakistan’s most respected, was seeking a safe haven away from the Pakistani government that wanted him charged with sedition and shadowy groups that had threatened to end his life.

But he died a very violent death nearly 10,000 kilometres away from home and in a place where he thought he was safe. Police officers manning a makeshift roadblock on the Nairobi-Magadi road fired nearly 20 bullets at the pearl white Toyota Landcruiser that Sharif and his brother were travelling in. One bullet went straight through his head, ending Sharif’s life.

Sharif, a staunch Khan supporter, believed that the impeachment was instigated by some state institutions and was purely political. Almost immediately, he became a fierce critic of the new administration led by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif.

One month after the new government assumed power, the journalist published a story on how a high ranking official from the ruling Pakistan Muslim League (N) (PML-N) with no official government job was carrying out state roles and intimidating civil servants. Sharif went on to pen several critical stories on the Pakistani government and reiterated governance shortfalls on his TV show. 

The journalist’s hard work, which resonated with thousands of Pakistanis, did not go unnoticed. He received, and complained of, several threats to his life as a result of the stories and TV airtime he dedicated to highlighting ills within the Pakistani government.

In August, the journalist interviewed Shahbaz Gill, leader of Mr Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party, on local media outlet Ary News. The interview irked the new administration, particularly because Mr Gill insinuated that junior army officers should not follow orders from their superiors that may be against the will of the Pakistani people.

For the government, this was the last straw. It immediately took Ary News off the air and ordered the arrest of Sharif and his interviewee, Mr Gill. The two were to be charged with sedition but Sharif fled the country.