Occupant in Arshad Sharif's car shot at GSU officers, police now claim

Pakistani news anchor Arshad Sharif

Top Pakistani news anchor Arshad Sharif. He was shot dead in Kenya, just months after he fled his home country to avoid arrest over sedition charges. 

Photo credit: Aamir Qureshi | AFP

 The mystery surrounding the death of prominent Pakistani journalist Arshad Sharif continued to deepen yesterday as the police contradicted themselves about the circumstances that led to the shooting on Sunday night.

The Nation, in an attempt to reconstruct the events leading to Sharif’s shooting, has established that the journalist and Mr Kurram Ahmed spent Sunday afternoon at Ammodump@Kwenia, an entertainment complex that also has a shooting range, and which is popular among Pakistani gun enthusiasts. It is located on a feeder road in Kamukuru, which is 85 kilometres south of Nairobi.

Mr Ahmed is from a family that was hosting Sharif in Westlands, Nairobi, and it appears that he has been in Kenya for a while, because he has a Kenya Revenue Authority Pin number for taxpayers. The Toyota Land Cruiser that the two were using that day is registered to Mr Ahmed.

It is believed that the two men left Kwenia for Nairobi at about 8pm. When they got to the main road, they were stopped by GSU officers who, according to the police, were responding to reports that a stolen vehicle had been sighted in the area.

The police say the GSU officers, under the command of the inspector on duty, had been dispatched to set up the road block, in a government Toyota Land Cruiser.

A different version

While the placement of the roadblock is not in question, what is confusing is that the police now have a different version of the events that followed the arrival of the car that the journalist and his friend were using at the road block.

Initially, a report made at Magadi Police station using OB number 14/23/10/2022 said that the occupants of the Toyota Land Cruiser defied orders to stop at the road block in Kamukuru, prompting the officers to shoot at it.

Additionally, police said that Mr Ahmed, on hearing the gunshots, made a call to Mr Naqar Ahmed, a Pakistani who lives in Tinga, 26 kilometres from the scene of the shooting, as one heads to Nairobi. Mr Naqar Ahmed, whom the Nation has established is a farmer in the area, is said to have advised Mr Ahmed to drive to his house, where on arrival, they found out that Sharif had died.

Yesterday, however, the police claimed that the occupants of the car shot at the GSU officers when they were stopped, injuring one of them, which prompted the officers to shoot back.

Additionally, the officers said that the Toyota Land Cruiser that was shot at was driven for 12 kilometres from the scene before being abandoned in a village.

“At around 10:40pm, an assistant chief from Esonorua called and informed that a suspicious vehicle had been abandoned along the road towards Ngarangiro,” said the police yesterday. Esonorua is 12 kilometres from Kamukuru.

A report circulated within security circles about the shooting indicated that constable Kelvin Mutuku was shot on his wrist after the occupants of a Toyota Land Cruiser that had been flagged down on suspicion that it had been stolen opened fire at the officers.

“He was challenged to stop but he defied and opened fire at our officers, which triggered them to respond to the said vehicle as it sped towards the Nairobi direction,” said the police on what led them to shoot at the vehicle that was carrying Arshad.

At the same time, the car that had been reported stolen is a Mercedes Benz, with a registration number that is different from the Land Cruiser’s. The police are unable to explain how the GSU officers involved in the shooting mistook a Toyota Land Cruiser for a Mercedes Benz.

Additionally, why the police, who had their own vehicle at the road block, did not give chase to the Toyota Land Cruiser after its occupants shot at them, is a question whose answer may perhaps come as investigations gather pace.

The Independent Police Oversight Authority had by last evening asked for the identities of the officers who were manning the road block, plus the guns issued to them, so that ballistic tests can be done to establish who fired the killer shot.

The officers, who were questioned on Monday, are expected to undergo another round of questioning today as the Internal Affairs Unit also gets involved in the investigations.

Harsh critic

Sharif was a harsh critic of the Pakistani government led by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, who took over power in April, following the ouster of his predecessor Imran Khan.

He fled Pakistan in August, citing threats to his life that he attributed to his publication of stories critical of the new administration.

He was also about to release an investigative documentary that makes allegations of corruption by ruling party leaders in Pakistan.

The journalist’s body was flown out of Kenya on a late night flight from Nairobi to his home in Islamabad, Pakistan, on Monday.

“My husband coming back home in a coffin. Authorities in Kenya are answerable to us,” Sharif’s wife Javeria Siddique tweeted yesterday after her husband’s body arrived in Islamabad.