KARACHI: A shopkeeper was shot dead in a suspected sectarian attack in the Empress Market area of Saddar late Wednesday night, triggering a widespread protest affecting several areas.

Shops were closed and other commercial activities suspended in Soldier Bazaar, where the victim lived, while M.A. Jinnah Road was closed for traffic for several hours on Thursday, officials said.

The victim, 40-year-old Asif Ali, aka Karbalai, closed his dried fruit shop in Clifton at around 2.15am, which was his usual time for closing in Ramazan, and was on his way home in a car when armed motorcyclists apparently chasing him intercepted him near the Empress Market and shot him dead.

Saddar SP Salman Hussain said the gunmen fired seven bullets through the window of the victim’s car as no bullet mark was found on the body of the vehicle.

He sustained four bullet wounds and died on the spot, added the officer. His body was taken to the Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre for medico-legal formalities and later handed over to his family.

Shops and other commercial activities were closed in the Soldier Bazaar area while M.A. Jinnah Road was also closed for traffic for hours. The road was opened for traffic in the afternoon.

The victim was a prominent Shia activist and might have been targeted owing to the same reason, the police officer added. He said that the victim did not have formal association with any religious party. The victim, father of two, had survived two attempts on his life in the past.

A spokesperson for the Majlis-i-Wahdat-i-Muslimeen said Asif Ali was a social activist and supporter of the MWM.

He added that M.A. Jinnah Road was closed by the police due to security concerns as the funeral prayers were held there.

“The Sindh government should ensure arrest of the killers of Asif Karbalai,” demanded MWM Karachi division political secretary Ali Hussain Naqvi while talking to the media after the funeral prayers at the Numaish traffic intersection.

“Karachi has become a hub of terrorists, therefore, the provincial government should take effective steps to control it.”

Published in Dawn, July 11th, 2014