KARACHI: Renowned Islamic scholar Mufti Taqi Usmani, a former judge of the Federal Shariat Court and brother of Mufti Rafi Usmani, and his family survived a gun attack on two cars that left a police guard and a driver dead and two others wounded in Gulshan-i-Iqbal on Friday, police said. The police saw the ambush on the 75-year-old vice president of Darul Uloom Karachi and Fiqa academy in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, as a conspiracy not only to sabotage peace in the metropolis but also to trigger chaos across the country.
“The motive [for the shootings] appeared to be bigger than sectarianism or terrorism,” said Karachi police chief Dr Amir Ahmed Shaikh.
Mufti Taqi was on his way to deliver the Friday sermon at the Baitul Mukarram mosque on University Road when four gunmen riding two motorbikes opened fire on his car on the NIPA flyover ramp at around 12:30pm, Gulshan SP Tahir Noorani told Dawn.
The officer said the Mufti survived the assassination attempt as he was sitting on the back seat of the car along with his family members, but the shooting left police guard Mohammad Farooq dead and car driver Habib wounded. The attackers also shot at another car behind his vehicle, leaving driver Sanober Khan dead and a religious scholar, Amir Shahab, hurt, he added.
Religious scholar was on his way to deliver Friday sermon when gunmen sprayed cars with bullets
However, an officer of the Counter-Terrorism Department, Raja Umer Khattab, said the attackers engaged both vehicles at the same time as per initial probe. He said two of the gunmen attacked Mufti Taqi’s car from the right side and from behind.
Two other attackers opened fire on the other car from the left side, leaving its driver dead and Amir Shahab wounded. The vehicle hit a vendor and came to a stop after bumping into the Chhipa ambulance set-up at NIPA.
Mufti Taqi’s driver Habib despite having suffered wounds managed to take the car to Liaquat National Hospital where the police guard was pronounced dead.
The other driver, Sanober Khan, and Maulana Amir, who had sustained gunshot wounds, were rushed to the Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre. Sanober Khan was pronounced dead on arrival, said JPMC’s executive director Dr Seemin Jamali, adding that five bullets had hit him.
She termed the condition of the other person critical, explaining that he also had sustained multiple gunshot wounds in the chest and head and was put on a ventilator.
The body of the police guard was later shifted to the JPMC for medico-legal formalities. JPMC police surgeon Dr Qarar Ahmed Abbasi said he had sustained six gunshot wounds in the chest and face.
In all, 14 spent bullet casings fired from 9mm pistols were collected from the crime scene, according to the Gulshan SP.
Karachi police chief Additional Inspector General Dr Amir Ahmed Shaikh told Dawn that as per their initial assessment, the motive appeared to be bigger than sectarianism or terrorism.
The city police chief said the real target was Mufti Taqi, who being a ‘towering personality’ commanded respect across the country and thus was a ‘soft target’.
“Its motive appeared to create chaos in Karachi and the country as well,” he said.
He also said that militants of a certain sectarian outfit had recently become “active” in the city but they had targeted “low-profile persons with a particular background” in the past.
Dr Shaikh said Karachi had witnessed acts of terrorism, sponsored by foreign elements, aimed at disturbing peace. He said in Friday’s incident, the police saw a “bigger conspiracy” to trigger chaos across the country.
He said the Sindh home department had established a threat assessment committee on a direction of the Supreme Court comprising representatives of all law enforcement agencies as well as intelligence agencies. He said Mufti Taqi had been provided two police guards, as he had not received any threat.
Wifaq-ul-Madaris-Al-Arabia, Pakistan, an organization of all seminaries in the country, said the assassination attempt was regrettable and condemnable whose motive should be explained to the nation and elements behind it should be taken to task.
“It was a matter of concern that a non-controversial and highly educated personality was attacked,” the organisation added.
Leaders of the Wifaq-ul-Madaris namely Mufti Rafi Usmani (Mufti Taqi’s elder brother), Maulana Dr Abdul Razzak Iskander, Maulana Anwar-ul-Haq and Maulana Mohammed Hanif Jalandhri held those who had withdrawn security from religious personalities and religious institutions equally responsible for the attack.
They urged the government to provide “reasonable security” to important religious figures and institutions to save the country from anarchy and mischief.
Born in 1943 in India, Mufti Taqi Usmani is son of Mufti-i-Azam Pakistan and active member of the Pakistan movement Mohammad Shafi Usmani. He is also adviser on Islamic banking to eight banks.
Published in Dawn, March 23rd, 2019