A day after Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) leader Faisal Vawda’s claim that journalist Arshad Sharif’s murder was pre-planned in Pakistan, Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah on Thursday said PTI chief Imran Khan and other party leaders, including Mr Vawda, will also be investigated in the killing case.
“Following Vawda’s claims, there is no need for further witnesses, as his words should be taken into serious consideration,” the minister said at a press conference in the capital, adding that the facts gleaned so far were being probed. “Imran Khan wants bodies before every long march,” he said.
“A narrative was built that Arshad Sharif was being intimidated and threatened,” he remarked, adding that a “hoax” threat alert for the journalist was issued by the KP government, which would be investigated.
The alert, he said, stated that the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan had plotted the journalist’s murder. He said Mr Sharif went to Dubai and was later sent to Kenya.
He said cases against Arshad Sharif’s killing would be filed after the inquiry committee submitted its report. He alleged that all the existing leads pointed to two individuals — Imran Khan and (ARY chief operating officer) Salman Iqbal, adding that verified details about the ownership of the farmhouse, where the journalist was suspected to be staying in Nairobi, would be received shortly.
The minister also said the government-constituted two-member joint investigation team was gathering intelligence about Waqar and Khurram — two of the key characters in the late journalist’s Kenyan ordeal. “Did Khurram inform Arshad Sharif’s family first?” Sanaullah questioned.
He commented that PTI chief Imran Khan’s true face stood exposed before the nation after the intelligence agency chief in a rare press conference apparently set the record straight about both the US cipher (that Mr Khan claims exposed how and why his government was sent packing) as well as Arshad Sharif’s murder.
Mr Sanaullah said the PTI’s long march would not be allowed to enter Islamabad’s Red Zone at any cost. The government would deploy the army under Article 245 of the Constitution and the marching protesters would be contained at all the entry points to the capital.
“We will ensure that the march complies with the Supreme Court and high court orders,” he said.
Meanwhile, Defence Minister Khawaja Asif also berated Imran Khan for casting aspersions on the army chief.
Speaking at a press conference here, he said there was a time when Mr Khan was offering an extension to the army chief, but the situation changed when Gen Qamar Bajwa refused to take unconstitutional and illegal steps, which followed attacks on his integrity.
“He uses one language against the institution in front of the media, while behind closed doors in secret meetings, he appears apologetic,” Mr Asif claimed.
“We respect the decision of the institution (to remain neutral) and will protect it. Other institutions should also follow suit and remain within their constitutional ambit,” he said.
The defence minister claimed Mr Khan had been barred from making the cipher public in his political rally, but he created a national security issue for his personal vested interest. He blamed the PTI chief for destroying the credibility of Pakistan and its relations with the international community.
“They made fun of our martyred three-star general on social media,” said the minister and warned that the blood of the martyrs was a “red line for the state and nation”. He said Mr Khan crossed the red line and made deliberate attempts to create divisions within an institution.
The minister asked the PTI chief whether he would appear before the inquiry commission constituted to probe the murder of Arshad Sharif because he admitted to have advised the deceased to leave the country.
He said the KP government did not share the supposed threat alert to Mr Sharif with the federal government. He also defended the unprecedented presser by the ISI and ISPR chiefs, saying the institution was left with no option but to go public after Mr Khan “crossed all limits”.