ISLAMABAD, Oct 6: Maulana Azam Tariq, chief of the Millat-i-Islamia and MNA, was assassinated by unidentified gunmen on Monday afternoon along with four others as his car drove into the capital around 4.25pm, police and close aides of the late religious leader confirmed.
The attack occurred at a toll plaza in Golra on the southwestern outskirts of the capital, the police said, and added that the Maulana was returning from his constituency Jhang to attend Monday’s National Assembly session. He was travelling in his car bearing registration number ADV 333. According to doctors, who conducted his external postmortem, the Maulana, who had escaped several assassination attempts in the past, received 40 bullet injuries, mostly in the head and cervical region. Islamabad’s Inspector-General of Police, Major (retired) Mohammad Akram, described the incident as sectarian. He refused to accept it as a security lapse by the police or other security agencies.
He said the assailants, who were three in number, intercepted the Maulana’s car and sprayed bullets with AK-47 assault rifles.
According to eyewitnesses, the assailants who were in a white Pajero escaped.
All five people in the car, including Maulana Azam Tariq, died on the spot.
Initially, there was a confusion. And it was thought that the Maulana himself was not in the car and those killed were his close relatives. Subsequently, however, some of the MNAs and close associates of the religious leader identified his body.
The faces of all five were badly mutilated and difficult to identify.
Police officials said they found all victims lying in a pool of blood inside the car amid shattered glasses from the car’s windowpanes.
Others killed in the incident were: Asghar (driver), hailing from Jahanian, and guards Usman (from Hazro), Mumtaz (from Khushab) and Daniyal (from Balakot).
A senior police official said the attack was a highly organized act of terrorism.
No one has, so far, claimed responsibility for the attack.
Sahibzada Saeed-ur-Rashid, a close aide of the late religious leader, immediately put the blame on the government for being indifferent to Maulana’s security despite threats from rival “sectarian groups”.
Another colleague of the Maulana said the Punjab government had recently withdrawn the security guards provided to him officially.
The situation outside the Pakistan Institute of Medical Science’s mortuary where the bodies had been placed was tense. Friends and party colleagues milled in and around the compound of PIMS, making emotional speeches and vowing to avenge his killing.
His funeral prayers would be offered outside the National Assembly building at 8.30am on Tuesday.
Maulana Azam Tariq previously headed Anjuman Sipah-i-Sahaba, which was banned by President Musharraf because of allegations of sectarian violence. The Sipah-i-Sahaba had been blamed by police for more than 400 killings in sectarian violence in Pakistan in recent years.
He was elected to the National Assembly during last year’s elections as an independent candidate. Despite being a religious leader, he refused to join Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal, a conglomerate of six religious parties.
Later, according to Dr Shahid, who conducted the autopsy of the Maulana, 43 bullets hit the late leader’s body, 23 of which passed through, leaving behind exit holes.
He said fire was opened from a close range of three to four metres. The bullets badly damaged the Maulana’s skull.
The doctor was of the opinion that the fire was opened with weapons of different types from all four sides of the car.
A wrist watch and certain other objects were recovered from the Maulana’s pockets.
PRESS NOTE: Today, on the 6th of October, 2003, at about 4.15pm Maulana Azam Tariq, accompanied by four bodyguards, entered the toll plaza at Kashmir Highway in the jurisdiction of the Police Station Golra, in his Corolla Car No ADV-333.
The vehicle was followed by a white Pajero Jeep with four persons, which overtook the car of Maulana Azam Tariq from the southern side entrance. After crossing over the toll plaza, the jeep halted beside the car of Maulana Azam Tariq and opened fire. The car of Maulana Azam Tariq stopped. The three unidentified gunmen stepped down from the Pajero and opened fire from a close range, resulting in the instantaneous death of Maulana Azam Tariq, his driver and three bodyguards.
Upon receiving this information the district administration and Islamabad police immediately rushed to the spot and brought the bodies to the PIMS. The entire Islamabad entry/exit points have been put under strict surveillance, search for the assailants is on and investigation is being made. Security has been deployed on all the sensitive points in order to ensure safety of life and property of the citizens.