With the sad demise of journalist Arshad Sharif, another argument dies today. We may agree or disagree with an argument but arguments must stay alive. This is freedom of expression.
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Arshad Sharif was a member of a WhatsApp group of mine. He was the son of the now-retired Commander Muhammad Sharif. His father was a simple man, having specialised in signals (Long C). He was my instructor during my journey with the Pakistani Navy. I arranged Arshad’s first interview with Imran Khan during my time as the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s Head of Central Media in 2012. I took him to Bani Gala despite stiff opposition from within the party’s leadership. Just before entering the room, Imran Khan interrogated me as to why I had arranged an interview with Arshad in spite of his severe criticism against the PTI. I replied succintly, stating “we have two options: either to resolve with those who criticise us or to quarrel with them. I recommend the former.” Imran agreed with me. In those days, Imran Khan used to absorb arguments. The interview was long, and it was tough. Arshad Sharif smartly made two parts of this interview. Back then, an interview with Imran Khan by any journalist meant for the instant success of that journalist.
The murder of a journalist, an attack on a journalist, or even a ban on a journalist is a stage where arguments die down against power, conspiracy, or fascism. Pakistan’s 156th position in the global media freedom index encompasses a history of journalists being killed or kidnapped or injured or banned in Pakistan. This one is perhaps the first of its kind to take place outside Pakistan. In our history, facts behind any such incident never come out. If the attempted murder of Hamid Mir had been properly investigated and facts had come out, the untimely fate of Arshad Sharif might have been different.
Our political differences should never overcome the need of freedom of expression in our society. I am sad to learn of Arshad’s death, even if I might have disagreed on his thoughts and ideas; however, I believe he had every right to follow his beliefs. Despite all speculations, accusations are not solutions. A thorough investigation must be carried out. Facts must come out if we don’t want to see another journalist meeting a similar fate. In the end, every death reminds us that life is a short journey, which must ride on truth and principles, and not any agenda, any hatred, any bias, or any lie. The assassin must know his fate cannot be different than the one who he has murdered. Those who are murdered leave the world as an innocent victim, and sometimes even as a Shaheed if they are not a hardcore criminal.
May Allah rest Arshad’s soul in eternal peace.