KARACHI: Prof Dr Muhammad Shakeel Auj, dean of the faculty of Islamic Studies, University of Karachi, was shot dead on University Road in Gulshan-i-Iqbal and a girl student of his was wounded on Thursday morning, officials said.
He was on his way to attend a ceremony organised in his honour at the Iranian Cultural Centre for getting a Tamgha-e-Imtiaz for his meritorious services in Islamic studies.
Dr Auj, author of over a dozen books, might have been targeted over his religious thoughts and his efforts to unearth an alleged fake degree scam in the KU, police and sources in the KU said.
Dr Prof Tahir Masood, chairman of the Mass Communication Department of the KU, who was accompanying Dr Shakeel Auj, told Dawn that they left the university to attend the ceremony at the Iranian Cultural Centre in Clifton as the doctor was awarded Tamgha-i-Imtiaz by the government on Aug 14. He added that a friend of Dr Auj’s had sent a chauffeur-driven car to pick him up from the KU. Dr Auj, his teenage niece and student Dr Amna and Dr Tahir Masood sat in the backseat while the front seat was left vacant for the professor’s friend who was to join them on their way.
“I was discussing with him that what should I say about his personality and work in my speech at the ceremony, to which Dr Auj suggested that I should say that he (Auj) focused extensively on research material in his writings,” said the professor.
“As the car drove down the Nipa flyover ramp, I heard the sounds of two bursts,” said Dr Masood. “Initially, I though the tyre of a passing rickshaw might have burst, but soon I realised that there were two bullet holes in the windowpane of the car.”
He told the driver to accelerate the vehicle. In the meantime, the professor’s niece started crying saying that “cruel persons had killed him as he lay down on the seat”. The driver rushed to the Aga Khan University Hospital, ignoring the traffic lights on his way.
As Dr Auj was being shifted on a stretcher when Dr Amna also said she was feeling a pain and it transpired that a bullet had hit her on the hand. Soon after the arrival, at the AKUH the doctors declared him dead and stated that a bullet had struck him in the head, piercing his skull and exiting through an eye. Later, the body was taken to the JPMC for a post-mortem examination. Aziz Bhatti police SHO Sarfraz Ali said the professor had received two bullets fired from a 0.9mm pistol.
“Investigators were focussing on two aspects of the murder,” said Karachi East DIG Munir Ahmed Shaikh. First, Dr Auj had lodged an FIR (460/2012) against unknown people after receiving threatening texts. The FIR was registered under Sections 506-B (threats) of the Pakistan Penal Code and 25 of the Telegraph Act.
During investigation, two persons including a former dean of the faculty of Islamic studies of the KU, Dr Abdul Rasheed, were ‘interrogated’, said the DIG-East. He revealed that the late doctor had received a threatening message over his purported controversial lecture and the message contained that a famous seminary in Korangi had issued a fatwa against him over his alleged blasphemous uttering. But when Dr Auj approached the seminary, they denied having issued such a fatwa against him.
Second, Munir Ahmed Shaikh said, the late dean had taken a ‘serious notice’ of ‘fake degrees’ in Islamic studies awarded by some KU professors. “We have opened the case file and would also collect the information about the two persons detained in the past,” said the senior police officer. He said Prof Shakeel Auj had received such threatening texts when he took up the fake degrees issue.
However, Dr Abdul Rasheed, now dean of the faculty of theology at the Federal Urdu University, told Dawn that it was an “old case” and he was “acquitted” in it. Later on, he had filed a defamation suit against Dr Auj, which was also confirmed by the DIG-East.
Meanwhile, Karachi AIG Ghulam Qadir Thebo formed a special investigation team and recommended to the provincial government to announce a Rs2m reward for the arrest of culprits behind the professor’s killing.
Published in Dawn, September 19th, 2014