Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif wrote on Tuesday two separate letters to the chief justice of Pakistan requesting to constitute judicial commissions in connection with the firing on the former premier Imran Khan during the long march at Wazirabad and to probe the murder of journalist Arshad Sharif in Kenya.
The prime minister has requested CJP Justice Umar Ata Bandial to constitute judicial commissions comprising all available judges of the Supreme Court to examine the firing incident during PTI’s rally and to probe the murder of Sharif and ascertain the facts and circumstances leading to his death.
The letter comes as tensions remained high on Tuesday and the anger, which spilled out onto the streets nationwide after the gun attack on Imran, persisted into its fifth day. The PTI supporters and workers have accused the government of orchestrating the assassination plot.
In the letters, the premier while assuring complete support and cooperation to the commission has also raised certain questions and urged that the commission may take them into consideration when examining the issue.
In the letter pertaining to the firing at the Wazirabad rally, PM Shehbaz stated that the federal government was of the opinion that pending criminal investigation, and in order to put matters to rest and restore public confidence in state institutions, an impartial body needs to inquire into the matter.
He requested the CJP to consider, firstly, which law enforcement agencies were responsible to provide security to the convoy and whether security protocols and other standard operating procedures were put in place to secure the convoy and whether these protocols were adhered to.
Secondly, PM Shehbaz stated, what the facts of the incident itself are as there were reports of multiple shooters on the scene and retaliatory firing, asking what is the total number of victims and the nature of their injuries.
Thirdly, the PM wrote, whether law enforcement agencies and administrative authorities complied with the prescribed investigation, evidence collection and handling procedures following the incident, saying if not then what procedural lapses took place and which administrative authorities, law enforcement agencies or provincial government functionaries are responsible for the same.
Fourthly, he continued, whether the investigation into the incident is being deliberately impeded, saying if yes then by which actors and why. Fifthly, he maintained, whether the shooting was a result of a criminal conspiracy hatched to assassinate the PTI chief or the act of a lone shooter, asking who the actors responsible in either scenario are.
In the letter, PM Shehbaz has expressed that Pakistan has become embroiled in a serious law and order crisis over the past few days. He said that the unfortunate incident of firing at the rally of the PTI chairman in Wazirabad and the subsequent “venomous speeches” of its leadership have created a state of turmoil and fear in the country by triggering a series of violent protests, which have put ordinary citizens at risk, and garnered significant media coverage throughout Pakistan and globally.
‘Authorities in Punjab failed’
It appeared that the premier’s letters were written before an FIR was registered in connection with the Wazirabad incident as it stated that no FIR was registered despite a lapse of over 72 hours.
Regrettably, the PM stated, law enforcement agencies and investigating authorities under the PIT-led Punjab government have "failed to adhere to the law and the rules applicable to any investigation following an incident of this nature".
PM said that it is unfortunate that the crime scene has not been secured, and the container on which injuries were sustained by the PTI leadership is yet to be taken into custody for forensic analysis.
He added that there was no medico-legal report of the PTI chief following the incident; instead, he was directly taken to a private cancer research hospital which is not a registered medico-legal centre.
The premier said that it may also be noted that the mishandling of the investigation process in the incident's aftermath by the Punjab government and its functionaries is likely to result in “compromised evidence”, which is directly attributable to the failure of the provincial law enforcement agencies to follow prescribed investigation protocols, and which smacks of male fide.
The federal government has already written to the provincial administration and expressed its grave concern at the mishandling of the matter, he said, saying public installations, buildings including the Governor House in Lahore, and even private properties have been attacked by miscreants under the patronage of the government of Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa where similar demonstrations were orchestrated.
“A derogatory campaign has ensued in tandem against state institutions, especially the armed forces of Pakistan, which are being accused of conspiring, along with the federal government, against the former prime minister,” PM Shehbaz stated.
While requesting for the judicial commission, PM Shehbaz stated it needs to inquire into the matter, ascertain the facts, identify the culprits, and affix responsibility for the incident.
Lauding that the top court has always played a key role in upholding the constitution and the preservation of rule of law, he said, the present circumstances represent a great threat to public safety imperilling the national security of the state of Pakistan.
He said that the government shall be highly obliged if the request made in the interest of advancing the cause of rule of law in the country is accepted and commits to providing its complete support and cooperation to the commission while it carries out the task.
Arshad Sharif case
On the journalist’s killing, PM Shehbaz said that certain allegations have been linking the federal government and the security agencies to Sharif’s death, saying the federal government was of the opinion that these allegations and aspirations were prejudicing the public against state institutions and if not investigated expeditiously, will cause long-term erosion of public confidence.
Following the incident of shooting in Kenya resulting in the unfortunate death of senior journalist Arshad Sharif, the premier said, the government, amongst other steps, immediately dispatched two experienced officers to liaise with the Kenyan authorities and make their own independent assessment regarding the incident.
Their report and recommendations are awaited and the law will take its own course.
Additionally, in view of the sensitivity of the matter and to probe into certain aspersions against the federal government and other state institutions, it was inter alia deemed necessary to probe into the conduct of his contacts before and after his departure from Pakistan.
The federal government, therefore, decided to constitute a commission of enquiry headed by a retired judge of the Lahore High Court. However, he said, before a notification to such effect could be issued, it was brought to the government's notice that the mother of the deceased has reportedly approached SC with a request to constitute a commission to enquire into the matter.
“Multiplicity of enquiries is not desirable and therefore, the Federal Government wishes to accord its full support to such a request made by the mother of the deceased,” PM Shehbaz stated, saying, therefore, it would only be appropriate if the matter is probed into by an impartial body.
While requesting CJP to constitute a judicial commission comprising all available judges of the top court to enquire into this matter of national security and international concern and ascertain the facts and circumstances leading to M Sharif's death, he has requested the commission to consider the following.
Firstly, the premier has urged the commission to see what were the modalities of Sharif's departure from Pakistan in August 2022 and who are the persons involved in facilitating his departure.
Secondly, PM asked, whether any law enforcement agency or federal or provincial administration was aware of any threats to the slain journalist’s life and what measures, if any, were taken to mitigate any risks.
Thirdly, he stated, what were the reasons and circumstances which led to Sharif's departure from UAE to Kenya. Fourthly, he added, what are the facts of the shooting incident which led to Sharif’s death?
Fifthly, he urged, whether the unfortunate death of Sharif in Kenya was, in fact, one of mistaken identity or if was there any foul play involved.