KARACHI: Thousands of people attended on Thursday the funeral of qawwali star Amjad Sabri, who was gunned down a day earlier in what police described as a targeted killing.
Dozens of police and paramilitary Rangers guarded the funeral procession winding its way down the road, as a sea of mourners, some wearing black armbands, surrounded the ambulance carrying Sabri’s body.
Shops and businesses in Liaquatabad and Nazimbad shut down for the day.
Although a splinter group of the outlawed Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan claimed responsibility for Sabri’s killing, police investigators were not convinced and insisted on looking into three other aspects — the threats the famous Sufi singer had received recently from unknown quarters, political reasons and his business interests in real estate projects — to determine the motive for the murder.
Sabri’s colleague, Saleem aka Chand, remained unhurt in the attack.
A senior police officer, who wished not to be named, told Dawn on Thursday that after meeting the brothers of Sabri they came to know that the renowned qawwal had received threats from unknown quarters. The late qawwal had informed his relatives about the threats, but he did not formally convey them to police or other authorities seeking security.
The officer said Sabri had received the threats during Ramazan transmission. Since the threats were issued over a mobile phone, the investigators were collecting phone data to ascertain the identity of the caller.
Meanwhile, SSP-Central Muqaddas Haider, who is a member of the investigation team headed by DIG-West Zulfiqar Larik, told Dawn that they had come to know through media that a faction of the outlawed Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan had claimed responsibility for Sabri’s killing over alleged “blasphemy”. He said the investigators had been trying to ascertain the possible movement of members of the banned outfits in the area where the late qawwal was targeted.
The SSP-Central said that the investigators were also trying to see whether Sabri had “political connections” with any party or group and to what extent he was affiliated with the party and who could be hostile to him.
The third possible motive behind the killing being looked into by the police was related to the reported interest of the slain qawwal in investment, particularly in the real estate business, and whether he had a dispute with anyone, said SSP Haider.
The senior officer said that police’s forensic lab report had showed that the weapon used in the murder had not been used in other targeted killing in Karachi. He said that a 30-bore pistol was rarely used in targeted killings these days because hitmen generally preferred 9mm pistols.
The SSP-Central said according to eyewitness accounts the killers were youths who overtook the car being driven by Sabri from its left side. As he pulled up, the bike-riders opened fire through the windscreen of the car, targeting specifically the qawwal.
Saleem was still in a state of shock and the investigators expected to meet him to record his statement after he overcame the shock, he said. Sharifabad police registered a case under Sections 302 (premeditated murder), 324 (manslaughter) and 34 (common intention) of the Pakistan Penal Code as well as Section 7 of the Anti-Terrorism Act, 1997 on the complaint of the victim’s brother, Azmat Fareed Sabri.
The police said that Section 324 was invoked when it emerged that a passer-by woman had also been wounded in firing.
The police also released the sketch of a suspect to media and sought help from the public in identifying the killer.
Published in Dawn, June 24th, 2016