University director shot dead during ‘robbery attempt’ in Karachi

Published June 11, 2021
Police believe the academic's death was not a case of targeted killing. —  Reuters/File
Police believe the academic's death was not a case of targeted killing. — Reuters/File

The director of the Usman Institute of Technology (UIT), Dr Zahir Ali Syed, was shot dead by unidentified assailants near Karachi’s Stadium Road on Friday in what appeared to be a "robbery attempt", according to police.

According to East SSP Sajid Amir Sadozai, Dr Syed, 70, was travelling in a car being driven by his driver after leaving the university for the day before the incident.

The senior cop said the professor dropped his driver off near Khatoon-i-Pakistan Girls College and drove his car himself for a short distance when armed pillion riders intercepted his car with an apparent motive to loot him. Sensing danger, Dr Syed accelerated his car to escape but the assailants opened fire at him and fled away.

The professor was taken to the nearby Aga Khan Hospital but could not survive due to excessive bleeding caused by the gunshot.

Dr Zahir Ali Syed
Dr Zahir Ali Syed

Police said the academic suffered a single bullet wound that proved fatal.

The senior police official said it appeared to be a robbery attempt. “Had it been a targeted killing, the attackers would have fired shots at him from a pointblank range, but it was not seen in this case,” he added.

The gunmen could also have tried to stop the car from the front — which they didn't, while they also didn’t use a 9mm pistol, which is common in targeted killings, according to the SSP.

Law-enforcement personnel said further investigation into the incident was underway.

According to his UIT profile, Dr Syed had over 35 years of experience in senior management positions in both academia and industry.

He did his bachelors in electrical engineering from Dawood College of Engineering & Technology and received his masters and PhD degrees from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of Southern California and Stanford University, respectively.

Alongside being the director of UIT, he was a member of the senate, academic council and board of faculty at NED university, co-chair of the MIT Enterprise Forum Pakistan and member selection committee of the Sultan Qaboos IT Chair at UET Lahore.

Previously he also served as a member of the curriculum and selection boards of various universities.

During the first three months of 2021, Karachi faced an alarming increase in street crimes as citizens lost millions of rupees in armed robberies and snatching at gunpoint with no district of the city remaining safe from the reach of criminals, according to data compiled by Dawn.

The data showed that 5,982 cell phones, 1,055 motorbikes and 477 cars were snatched in the city between January and March.

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