Maulana Dr Adil Khan, a religious scholar and head of Karachi's Jamia Farooqia seminary, was shot dead along with his driver in a suspected targeted attack in the city on Saturday, officials said.
Maulana Adil was the son of late prominent scholar Maulana Saleemullah Khan, who founded the Jamia Farooqia, located in Shah Faisal Colony.
According to a police statement, as the Vigo car carrying Dr Adil stopped near a shopping centre in Shah Faisal Colony to purchase sweets, armed pillion riders opened indiscriminate fire on the car and fled.
Dr Adil was shifted to the Liaquat National Hospital where he was pronounced dead on arrival, according to hospital spokesperson Anjum Rizvi.
His driver, Maqsood Ahmed, was also declared dead on arrival at the Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre (JPMC), said Dr Seemin Jamali, the hospital's executive director.
An aide of Maulana Adil, Umair, who had left the vehicle to purchase sweets from a nearby shop, remained unhurt in the incident.
The seminary head's body was later brought to the JPMC to fulfil legal formalities.
Maulana Adil, a scholar from the Sunni Deobandi sect, completed a PhD in religious studies and had taught in Malaysia before returning to Karachi a few years ago after the death of his father Maulana Saleemullah, who had remained a student at the Darul Uloom Deoband in India.
Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah took notice of and condemned the incident, saying some miscreants wanted to "sabotage the peace in the city".
Separately, Sindh Inspector General of Police Mushtaq Ahmed Mahar sought a detailed report from the Korangi senior superintendent of police.
Counter-Terrorism Department Deputy Inspector General Omar Shahid Hamid said police were focusing on two possible motives behind the incident.
He said in addition to the obvious sectarian aspect of the gun attack, they were ascertaining as to whether a third party wanted to create sectarian conflict. He pointed out that "certain incidents" that recently took place had triggered fears about sectarianism in the city.
According to DIG Hamid, Dr Adil was prominent figure in the Deobandi school of thought who also remained a close aide of Mufti Taqi Usmani. He was coming from the Darul Uloom Korangi when he was targeted.
PM Imran, others condemn attack
Prime Minister Imran Khan in a tweet termed Maulana Adil's targeted killing "condemnable", saying for the last three months, his government had been aware of "India's attempts to target kill [scholars] from Sunni and Shia sects to create sectarian conflict across the country".
"We have prevented a number of such attempts preemptively in [the] last few months. Our intelligence organisations and law enforcement agencies will nab culprits of this murder also," the premier said.
He called upon the ulema belonging to all sects to "ensure people do not fall prey to this nefarious Indian design to destabilise Pakistan".
Expressing grief on the assassination, Chief of Army Staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa "strongly condemned" the incident and said it was an attempt "by Pakistan’s enemies to foment unrest".
Sindh Education Minister Saeed Ghani said he was "deeply saddened" to hear of the passing of Maulana Adil. He added that the attack on the scholar was a "conspiracy to disturb the situation in Sindh, especially Karachi".
Jamaat-i-Islami (JI) chief Sirajul Haq expressed sorrow at Dr Adil's death, saying he had been attacked by "the enemies of Pakistan".
He demanded of the authorities to arrest the culprits and give exemplary punishment to them.
PML-N leader Ahsan Iqbal said he was shocked at Dr Adil's death, saying Pakistan and the Muslim world had been deprived of a highly respectable scholarly personality.