November 26, 2022

Islamabad, Pakistan CNN —

A Pakistani journalist who was shot dead by police in Kenya last month was the victim of a “targeted killing,” a senior Pakistani government official said on Tuesday, without providing any evidence to support his claim.

TV journalist Arshad Sharif – a vocal critic of the Pakistani military – died in a police shootout near Kenya’s capital Nairobi on October 23.

Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah told reporters an initial assessment by a two-person fact-finding team that traveled to Kenya on behalf of the Pakistani government was “that Arshad Sharif was killed in a targeted killing”. More evidence is needed “to confirm all of this,” he said.

Sanaullah’s comments appear to contradict previous reports by Kenyan authorities that Sharif was shot dead by police in response to reports of a stolen vehicle in a case of mistaken identity.

Pakistan’s interior minister also accused Kenyan police of “failing to cooperate” with the investigation team and said “key data” about the case had not been handed over by Kenyan authorities. A formal request for the information had been submitted, he added.

Kenyan police told CNN they were unaware of allegations of lack of cooperation from Pakistani officials. “We have received no such complaints, which require formal filing, if any,” police spokesman Isohi Shioso said.

Shioso said the case is being handled by the Independent Policing Oversight Authority. CNN has reached out to the watchdog for comment.

Sharif fled Pakistan in August after sedition charges were laid for allegedly criticizing state institutions and “inciting mutiny” within the military.

Those allegations followed Sharif’s interview with opposition politician Shahbaz Gill, a close ally of Imran Khan, the ousted former prime minister who was shot dead in murky circumstances during a protest in Pakistan’s Punjab province last week.

Following the interview, Pakistani police also accused Gill of hate speech and claimed he had made “anti-state comments”.

Sharif’s TV news channel ARY initially claimed he was “persecuted by the current regime” but later severed ties with the journalist after he was shut down for about a month by Pakistan’s media regulators.

Earlier, a close friend of Sharif’s told CNN the journalist had to “flee Pakistan in August to save his life”. He had initially gone to Dubai but had to flee again due to “harassment from Pakistani officials,” the staffer said.

The staffer said Sharif then went to Kenya and was only in the east African country for a few weeks before his death.