A star Pakistani television presenter, who fled the country months ago to escape arrest for sedition, was shot and killed in Kenya, apparently by police, Kenyan police said on Monday. Arshad Sharif was a vocal critic of Pakistan’s all-powerful military and a supporter of former Prime Minister Imran Khan, ousted in April by a no-confidence motion.
According to a police report seen by AFP, the car carrying Sharif and another man was hit by nine bullets on Sunday evening as it passed a makeshift roadblock in a remote area about 40 km from Nairobi. The report does not say who fired the shots, but does say the car continued on its way until it arrived at the home of another Pakistani citizen.
There, Sharif was pronounced dead, with “a gunshot wound to the head that had penetrated from behind”. The report adds that at the time of the incident, the police were looking for a stolen car and a person who had just been abducted. But he does not explain what the connection is with Sharif’s death.
In August, Sharif had interviewed a close adviser to Imran Khan, Shahbaz Gill, on the Ary News channel, who had on this occasion urged army officers to disobey orders contrary “to the will of the majority (of the people) “. These statements had been considered seditious by the authorities. Ary News was then briefly blocked from broadcasting by the media regulatory authority and an arrest warrant was issued for Sharif, who had by then left the country. The channel later announced that it had “cut (its) ties” with the presenter.
Criticism of the military and powerful security services has long been seen as a red line in Pakistan, ranked among the world’s most dangerous countries for media workers. Pakistan occupies 157th place out of 180 in the press freedom ranking compiled by Reporters Without Borders.