KARACHI: Renowned Qawwal Amjad Sabri was shot dead in Karachi Wednesday afternoon, after unknown assailants fired at his vehicle in the city's Liaquatabad area.
Qari Saifullah Mehsud, spokesperson for the TTP Hakimullah Mehsud group, has accepted responsibility for the attack.
Additional Inspector General Mushtaq Mehar told Dawn that two men riding a motorcycle fired shots at the car, terming the incident as “targeted killing.” He said the motive of the killing is unknown as of now.
Sabri, 40, and an associate were travelling in a car in Liaquatabad 10 area, when unidentified gunmen fired at their vehicle, critically injuring him. The two were shifted to Abbasi Shaheed hospital immediately, where Sabri succumbed to his injuries.
"Two riders used 30-bore pistols to shoot Sabri five times, the bullet to the head took the qawwal's life. The attackers took the Hassan Square route to escape," said DIG West.
"We have cordoned off the area and will arrest the culprits using all our resources," added the DIG.
Police officials recovered five 30-bore casings from the scene of the attack, which have been sent for forensics.
Both front side windows were shattered and three bullet holes could be seen on the front screen.
Ghulam Ahmed, an eye witness told SAMAA TV he saw two motorcycle riding men fire shots at one side of the car. “Then they turned and fired four shots on the other side of the car.”
Additional police surgeon Dr Rohina Hasan confirmed Sabri's demise. He was shot thrice – twice in the head and once in the leg – police sources said.
Senior Director Health Services Abbasi Shaheed Hospital also confirmed that Sabri was declared dead on arrival.
Fakhre Alam, Chairman of Sindh Censor Board, has claimed in a tweet that Sabri had earlier submitted an application for security, but the home department did not act on it.
However, an official source claimed the home department had received no such request. SSP Central also stated he is not aware of any such request.
Amjad Sabri was one of the country’s finest qawwals, known for his soul-stirring renditions of mystic poetry. He enthralled music aficionados with his brand of spirituality, mysticism and ecstasy for years. He was not only well-versed with the structure and aesthetics of qawwali but also knew how to make it adaptive to the contemporary music keeping its essence alive.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has condemned the attack and has directed the relevant authorities to bring the perpetrators to justice.
Chief Minister Sindh Syed Qaim Ali Shah has taken notice of the incident and ordered IG Sindh to submit a report regarding the assassination.
The CM has suspended DSP Liquatabad and SHO Liquatabad following the incident.
Amjad Sabri and blasphemy
Earlier in 2014, Dawn reported the Islamabad Hight Court (IHC) had issued a notice in a blasphemy case to Amjad Sabri along with two TV channels for the playing of a qawwali during a morning show.
The traditional qawwali sung by Amjad Sabri had mentioned religious figures, which was deemed offensive.
After a blasphemy case was registered against Geo News, advocate Tariq Asad had put the onus on Qawwal Amjad Sabri and the lyricist for the blasphemy row while seeking to ban the qawwali that caused the issue.
The court had also issued notices to Federal Information Secretary, chief executive of ARY, anchors Mubashir Lucman, Nida Yasir and Shaisata Lodhi, chairman of Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra), Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) and Chairman Cable Operators Association of Pakistan.
The Sabri legacy
Amjad Sabri was the nephew of qawwali icon Maqbool Sabri who passed away in 2011.
Maqbool Sabri along with his brother, the late Ghulam Farid Sabri, formed a formidable qawwali group in the mid-50s and became known for their soul-stirring renditions of arifana kalam (mystic poetry).
Maqbool’s nephew Amjad Sabri — who was tragically shot dead today in Karachi — was keeping the family tradition alive and was one of the most sought-after qawwals of the country.
Almost whatever the Sabri brothers sang became an instant hit. But some of their most memorable and famous qawwalis were Bhar Do Jholi Meri, Tajdar-i-Haram and Mera Koi Nahin Hai Teray Siwa.
They were equally well-versed in compositions made in the Persian language and sang Nami Danam Che Manzil Bood with equal ease and facility. The brothers’ rendition of Hazrat Amir Khusrau’s kalam was one of their marked areas of excellence.