Pakistani journalist Arshad Sharif’s shooting puts police on the spot

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 eerie silence that envelops Kamukuru shopping centre in Kajiado West Sub-county holds the dark secrets of the last moments of Pakistani journalist Arshad Sharif, 50, who died in a hail of bullets on Sunday night.

When the Nation team visited the scene on Monday—at the junction of a dusty feeder road and the Magadi-Nairobi road—it was deserted.

The scene is about half a kilometre to the Magadi General Service Unit (GSU) Training School, while the feeder road leads to Ammodump Kwenia, an entertainment spot that also has a shooting range that’s open to the public. Yesterday, there was little human activity at the spot, and only a few motorists.

The home of Kora sub-location assistant chief Matthias Kamukuru is the only residential compound in the vicinity, and it is only a few metres from where the shooting happened.

He told the Nation that he was woken up by three gunshots at 9pm but went back to sleep, assuming it was by GSU trainees.

“Around 9pm, I heard ‘twa twa twa’ three times before it went silent. We are used to the same from GSU training school trainees. I was not bothered,” he said. “In the morning I was told by villagers that police officers had gunned down robbers last night.”

The entrance to the GSU training school had little activity yesterday. The officers who usually man the entrance were missing.

Into a death trap

At Kamukuru shopping centre, residents in small groups talked in low tones about the shooting. They were suspicious of strangers and the few who spoke were economical with information.

“Men of Asian origin frequent the area, especially on weekends,” a boda boda rider said in reference to Ammodump Kwenia.

When Sharif left the joint on Sunday evening, little did he know that he would run into a death trap. He had spent his day at the place, which is popular with Indians and Pakistanis. 

The Nation visited Ammodump Kwenia yesterday but the management declined an interview.

“We cannot say much about him as the matter is still under investigation by the police,” the manager, who only identified herself as Jane said. However, reporters established that he had spent the day at the joint and that he was a frequent customer.

The establishment has a tented lodge, shooting range, archery off-road biking trails and camping site. It also offers game drives, and farm tours.

There are two routes to Kwenia: Tinga to Kwenia, which is shorter (about 16km); and the Kamukuru-Kwenia road, which is 21 kilometres long. While driving to Magadi from Nairobi, one gets to Tinga shopping centre first before Kamukuru. Tinga is about 70km from Nairobi city centre.

Sharif was shot dead by officers attached to the GSU training school at the junction of the Kwenia-Kamukuru feeder road and Nairobi-Magadi road.

It remains unclear why Sharif, who was seated in the co-driver’s seat, opted to use the longer route to the main road. His brother, Ahmed, was driving him in a Landcruiser.

“It was reported to Magadi Police Station at 22:00hrs that … a shooting incident involving GSU officers had occurred and the Pakistan national aged 50 years had been fatally shot while he was being driven in the motor vehicle,” the police report reads in part.

Sharif, a famous Pakistani journalist, had arrived in Kenya from London fearing for his life after exposing corruption in his home country. 

As Sharif was having a good time at the popular joint that is also frequented by military officers who patronise the range shooting, police claim that a man they identified as Douglas Wainaina had reported to the Pangani Police Station in Nairobi that his vehicle had been stolen from where he had parked it.

Mr Wainaina supposedly told detectives attached to the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) that he had parked his vehicle with his son inside, but when he went back to where he had left the car, he did not find it.

“The officers at Pangani Police Station then located the son at Olusuritia Anglican Church of Kenya (ACK) located within Kiserian. He was also located at Kiserian Dam estate and later Olepolos Hills. The DCI officers from Pangani Police Station alerted their colleagues at Magadi GSU Training school, who then barricaded the Magadi Road,” a report filed at Magadi Police Station reads.

National Transport and Safety Authority records show that the Toyota Landcruiser Sharif and his brother were using is registered to his brother. It was registered on December 24 last year.

However, the search for the vehicle registration number that was reportedly stolen had not yielded results by the time of going to press despite both searches being done at the same time.

When top officers in Kajiado County visited the scene of the journalist’s killing, it emerged that the GSU officers had barricaded the road using stones and were demanding that every vehicle stops for inspection.

According to police officers who spoke to the Nation and are privy to the investigations, Mr Ahmed was flagged down but he sped off.

“It was then that they heard gunshots and minutes later, Mr Sharif had been shot dead and was lying in a pool of blood,” an officer who spoke in confidence said.

Fatally shot

The vehicle was driven for 25 kilometres without the front right tyre, which a gunshot had deflated.

Mr Ahmed then called Mr Naqar Ahmed, a Pakistani who runs Kwenia, and who is also involved in farming at Tinga.

“He advised them to pass through his place, which is located on the way to Nairobi, and on arrival at the main gate, Mr Ahmed found out that his brother had already died with a gunshot wound on the head (that) had penetrated from the back of his head and exited on the front side,” the police report reads.

The scene was documented and the body taken to Chiromo Mortuary where a post-mortem was done yesterday afternoon.

The wife of the journalist broke the news through her Twitter account as she prayed that the family be given time to mourn.

“I lost a friend, husband and my favorite journalist today, as per police he was shot in Kenya. Respect our privacy and in the name of breaking please don’t share our family pictures, personal details and his last pictures from hospital. Remember us in your prayers,” she tweeted.

Pakistan Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif said in a statement yesterday that he had spoken with President William Ruto and asked for transparent investigations.

The journalist was a harsh critic of the Pakistani government led by Mr 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, which he attributed to his publication of stories critical of the new administration. 

Yesterday, Mr Khan claimed that the Pakistani government had a hand in Sharif’s killing.

“Arshad Sharif’s murder has sent shockwaves across the country. This murder has re-examined the current trend of targeting anyone who dares to question or criticise the rulers. Citizens are deprived of their fundamental rights under the Constitution,” Mr Khan tweeted.

The journalist was a vocal supporter of Mr Khan, who rode a populist wave to power in 2018, only for his term to be cut short following his impeachment by Parliament.

Mr Khan, a former international cricket star, was last week disqualified from running for political office for five years after the Election Commission of Pakistan said he had concealed gifts he received from foreign leaders while in power. 

The next election is due in October next year, when the tenure of Mr Sharif, a long-time rival of Mr Khan, and brother of former three-time Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif ends.


Sharif was working on a documentary, Behind Closed Doors, with Kenyan investigative journalist John-Allan Namu, which is expected to detail how PM Sharif and his family have allegedly benefited from dirty deals.

However, when the Nation contacted Mr Namu, he said that he had not met his Pakistani colleague.

The National Police Service (NPS) yesterday condemned Sharif’s murder and said investigations had been launched.

“NPS regrets to announce an incident that occurred last night along Kwenia Farm within Magadi where a foreign national was wounded by a police officer. Competent authorities are currently investigating the incident for appropriate action,” NPS said in a statement.

Kajiado West sub-county police boss Vincent Kitili said the journalist was a victim of mistaken identity after the GSU officers were tipped off on a stolen car.

Quick response team

“The officers opened fire when the driver of the vehicle failed to stop. The car was speeding at the time of the incident. It is so unfortunate we lost a Pakistan national,” he said.

Kenya’s policing oversight authority deployed a rapid response team to Kajiado County following the incident. At a press briefing in Nairobi yesterday, the Independent Policing Oversight Authority (Ipoa) said it was looking into the matter.

“Ipoa has sent a quick response team to Kajiado where a Pakistan national was allegedly murdered by police officers in Kajiado West sub-county,” read a statement from the authority.