If there were any doubts about a sinister, transnational plot to kill journalist Arshad Sharif, the 592-page report submitted on December 7 to the five-judge Supreme Court bench by the investigation team looking into the murder should have laid them to rest. The task now is to uncover those who ordered what the two investigators, senior officials from Intelligence Bureau and Federal Investigation Agency, concluded was a “planned targeted assassination”, and bring them to book. According to the report, the involvement of “characters in Kenya, Dubai and Pakistan” cannot be ruled out. The scope of the investigation is vast, and it will require painstaking work that builds upon the wealth of information gleaned thus far. And who knows what inconvenient truths it could unmask? Sharif’s trenchant analysis of political developments in the last few months of his life may have earned him some powerful enemies, something that his mother indicated in the application she has filed before the court.

If the well-known anchor was silenced on account of the views he expressed, it signals a new low for the environment in which the media works in the country. For it means that a journalist with a target on his or her back, which is bad enough a situation to be in, remains in mortal danger despite fleeing abroad. The investigating officers, who travelled to Kenya in late October on a two-week fact-finding visit have uncovered some startling, facts and inconsistencies. For instance, Waqar Ahmed who hosted Sharif in Kenya had connections within the Kenyan intelligence service as well as Pakistani and other international spy agencies, which may have been why he handed over the victim’s cell phone and iPad to a member of the Kenyan intelligence, rather than the local police. The report also notes discrepancies in the account given by the Kenyan police – who claimed to have fired upon the vehicle in which the journalist was travelling – and the ballistic evidence the Pakistani investigators were able to view. There were, moreover, significant inconsistencies in statements given to the fact-finding team by the owner of the channel where Sharif was last working. In short, there is much that the special joint investigation team, constituted by the government on the Supreme Court’s directives, can build upon. This heinous crime must be solved. Neither the court, nor journalists’ bodies – both Pakistani and international – must allow the brazen murder of yet another mediaperson to go unpunished.

This article first appeared in Dawn.