KARACHI: Renowned qawwal Amjad Sabri was shot dead on Wednesday afternoon in a targeted attack on his car by armed motorcyclists in Liaquatabad, officials said.
The 40-year-old Sabri, son of qawwali maestro Ghulam Farid Sabri, was heading to a private TV channel to perform in its Ramazan transmission when he was sprayed with bullets, police said.
They added that the masked hitmen spared his friend, Saleem aka Chanda, who was sitting next to him.
The killing was carried out on a day when the law enforcement agencies had claimed to have beefed up security in the wake of the kidnapping of the Sindh High Court chief justice’s son, Advocate Awais Ali Shah.
A TTP faction claims responsibility for the targeted killing
The killing was widely condemned, with Sindh Chief Minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah describing the incident as part of an “organised conspiracy to destabilise the city situation”.
According to an officer of the Sharifabad police station, Amjad Sabri left his home in Liaquatabad No 3 along with the friend at around 3pm. The qawwal was driving the car.
The police believed that the motorcyclists chased the car on the main road in Liaquatabad No 10. But they didn’t overtake it until the car moved to the service road near the Gharibabad underpass, leading to Hassan Square. Finally, the motorcyclists intercepted the car on the service road and the masked pillion rider fired multiple shots at Sabri before fleeing. The sole target appeared to be Sabri as his colleague remained unhurt, said the police officer. The hitman used a TT pistol, he added.
The suspects did not target him on the main road because a police mobile van was stationed there, the officer said.
Sabri sustained six bullet wounds and was brought to the Abbasi Shaheed Hospital where doctors declared him dead on arrival, said additional police surgeon Dr Rohina Hasan.
A splinter group of the outlawed Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan claimed responsibility for Sabri’s killing because he was a ‘blasphemer’, according to an Associated Press report. A blasphemy case was lodged in 2014 against a local TV station after it aired a show in which Sabri sang a qawwali that made reference to historical religious figures. The case has been pending in court.
While Karachi police chief Mushtaq Ahmed Mahar said that it appeared to be an incident of targeted killing, he told Dawn that the exact motive for the killing could be determined only after proper investigation.
SSP Investigations of Karachi Central Arab Mahar said Sabri had no personal enmity with anyone nor was he associated with any party.
The killing echoed in the National Assembly during a debate on the Finance Bill when senior Muttahida Qaumi Movement leader Dr Farooq Sattar informed the house about the gruesome murder. He told the house that though Sabri wasn’t a member of his party, he had a close association with the MQM and had recently expressed fears that his life may have been in danger.
PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari also concurred with the CM’s assessment. “The kidnapping of Awais Shah, son of the sitting chief justice of the Sindh High Court, the other day and now the killing of Amjad Sabri are part of a sinister conspiracy, as both incidents appeared professionally organised by the terrorist elements and their sponsors,” he said.
He termed it an “open challenge” to the law and order and writ of the state and government.
Meanwhile, Sindh police chief A.D. Khowaja called on the chief minister and gave a briefing to him about the killing. Mr Shah also contacted the director-general of Pakistan Rangers, Sindh. He asked both the IG police and the Rangers DG to intensify patrolling in the metropolis.
He directed the police chief to suspend the SHO and DSP of the area concerned and seek explanation from the Liaquatabad SP.
Published in Dawn, June 23rd, 2016