The widow of a Pakistani journalist who was fatally shot by Kenyan police while evading arrest in his home country has filed a lawsuit against the Kenyan police force. Arshad Sharif, a vocal critic of Pakistan’s military establishment, was killed when Kenyan police opened fire on his car at a roadblock near Nairobi in October of last year. Javeria Siddique, one of Sharif’s two wives, expressed her intention to take legal action during an interview with AFP in Islamabad last week, which her lawyer confirmed by stating that the lawsuit had been submitted to Kenya’s High Court on Monday, exactly a year after the tragic incident occurred.
Lawyer Ochiel Dudley stated, “Yes. The case has been filed,” adding that they were awaiting a case number and further instructions from the court. Siddique shared her frustration, saying, “It has been a year that I have been fighting for justice. The Kenyan police admitted that they killed my husband but never apologized.” Kenyan officials previously claimed that the shooting was a result of mistaken identity, alleging that officers believed they were firing at a stolen vehicle involved in an abduction. However, Siddique firmly maintains that her husband was the target of a deliberate attack and has attempted to seek redress by writing to the Kenyan president and foreign minister, but to no avail.
Sharif had fled Pakistan in August of last year following an interview with a senior opposition politician who had called for junior military officers to disobey orders that contradicted “the will of the majority.” Thousands of mourners attended Sharif’s funeral at Islamabad’s main mosque. The murder has drawn the attention of Pakistan’s top court, although the case remains pending. A fact-finding team of Pakistani intelligence officials submitted a report to the Supreme Court in December, labeling the incident a “planned, targeted assassination” involving “transnational characters.” International press freedom organizations have called for those responsible to be held accountable.
Siddique expressed her struggles over the past year, revealing, “Throughout the past year, I have endured financial and emotional losses and have even been subjected to character assassination.” This tragic incident highlights the pressing need to protect journalists and uphold press freedom. Pakistan ranks 150 out of 180 countries in a press freedom index compiled by Reporters without Borders, with journalists facing censorship and intimidation. It is crucial for authorities to ensure that those responsible for the killing of Arshad Sharif are brought to justice. Moreover, it is imperative for Kenya to address allegations of excessive force and unlawful killings by its police force, as human rights organizations have consistently reported.
In response to concerns over police misconduct, President William Ruto disbanded a notorious 20-year-old police unit accused of extrajudicial killings last year. The government has also pledged to implement reforms in the security sector. However, tangible actions and accountability are necessary to restore public trust and safeguard human rights. The pursuit of justice for Sharif’s tragic death serves as a reminder of the importance of upholding press freedom and ensuring the safety and security of journalists worldwide.