Tens of thousands attend the funeral of slain Pakistani journalist

Tens of thousands attend the funeral of slain Pakistani journalist


Tens of thousands of mourners attended Thursday’s funeral of a Pakistani journalist who was shot dead by police in Kenya after fleeing arrest in his home country.

Arshad Sharif, a harsh critic of Pakistan’s powerful military and a supporter of former Prime Minister Imran Khan, died over the weekend when Kenyan police opened fire on his car at a roadblock outside the capital.

Sharif fled the country in August to avoid charges of sedition and his death sparked widespread speculation in Pakistan that he was being targeted for his views.

Kenyan officials say Sharif’s death was a case of mistaken identity as officers thought they had fired at a stolen vehicle involved in a hijacking.

The funeral at Islamabad’s main mosque drew up to 40,000 mourners, according to local police, with people pouring into the gardens and surrounding streets.

Many media figures attended, but supporters of Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party made up a large part of the crowd, waving flags and chanting “Arshad, your blood will bring revolution”.

“Arshad Sharif sacrificed his life to expose the faces of the corrupt and we should not let that sacrifice go to waste,” said Muhammad Iqbal, a 35-year-old shopkeeper and PTI supporter who traveled from the neighboring garrison town of Rawalpindi.

Samina Qureshi said PTI supporters came “to vent our anger against the military, which has consistently manipulated politics.”

After the prayer, the pallbearers struggled to push through the crowd to a waiting ambulance to move it to a cemetery.

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Wednesday ordered an inquiry into the killing, only for a senior intelligence official to resign from the panel hours later.

Arshad Sharif fled the country days after an interview with opposition politician Shahbaz Gill, who said junior officers in Pakistan’s military should disobey orders that go against “the will of the majority”.

The comment led to a brief shutdown of the news channel and an arrest warrant for Sharif.

Gill was arrested after the interview, and Khan’s criticism of the judiciary over the imprisonment led to his own court appearance.

Pakistan has been ruled by the military for several decades of its 75-year history, and criticism of the security establishment has long been seen as a red line.

It ranks 157th out of 180 countries in a press freedom index compiled by Reporters Without Borders, with journalists facing censorship and intimidation.

Pakistan’s Human Rights Commission said the establishment had “a long, dismal record of violent tactics used to silence journalists” and that Sharif’s killing “sent shockwaves through the journalistic community”.

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