KARACHI, July 22: Khalid Shahanshah, the chief security officer of PPP co-chairperson Asif Ali Zardari, was assassinated on Tuesday afternoon outside his Clifton residence, police and witnesses said.

They said that gunmen on a white car sprayed him with a volley of bullets while he was stepping off his double-cabin vehicle in front of his house at Khyaban-i-Bukhari.

Darakhshan police said the 45-year-old PPP leader, who was stated to have been instrumental in the recent operation against gangsters in Lyari, reached his house along with a friend at about 2.45pm.

Mr Shahanshah parked his vehicle outside his bungalow as the gate of his porch was being repaired, while his friend, Manzar Abbas, went inside.

The victim’s friend, a businessman, told police that he went inside the house and Shahanshah was parking the vehicle. He said he stayed back when he heard the sound of gunfire.

A private security guard at the PPP leader’s house rushed out, only to find Mr Shahanshah lying in a pool of blood near the main entrance. He told Dawn that Mr Shahanshah managed to call the police from his mobile phone, although he was critically wounded.

The fatally wounded victim, father of two, was immediately taken to a nearby campus of the Ziauddin Medical University Hospital, but he died.

Hospital sources said the slain PPP leader had received at least five bullets, three of them in his upper torso, from a very close range.

Party leaders, including Rashid Rabbani and Waqar Mehdi, immediately reached the hospital.

Sindh Home Minister Dr Zulfiqar Mirza, who also rushed to the hospital, described the incident as another attempt to destabilise the government.

Police said that 18 empties of sub-machine gun and a dozen of .222 rifles were recovered from the scene.

SHO Inspector Khalid Mehboob said there was no eyewitness to the killing. “The private security guard could not see the faces of the occupants of the car that sped away after the swift operation,” he added.

The Darakhshan police chief said it was clearly a case of target killing. “But nothing could be said about the motive behind the incident at the moment,” he added.

The car used by the assailants was found abandoned in the evening in Defence Society.

Police sources said the attackers had fired from inside the car. They said that at least five shots had been fired from behind the windscreen of the car. Police also found empties in the car.

The sources said the car bore a fake provincial government registration number (GS-3909).

A case was registered against unknown assailants on the complaint of the victim’s younger brother, Haider Ali.

Shahanshah was once said to have links with underworld don Dawood Ibrahim. Other two associates of Dawood were Shoaib Khan and Ibrahim alias Bholu. The former died in mysterious circumstances in Karachi’s Central Jail and the latter was kidnapped and killed.

Shahanshah was also a close associate of the slain chief of PPP’s student wing, Najeeb Ahmed.

Shahanshah contested the 2002 election for a National Assembly seat from the Azizabad constituency on a PPP ticket. He went abroad for some time and returned with Benazir Bhutto on Oct 18 last year. He was also with Ms Bhutto when she was assassinated on Dec 27.

He was interviewed by the Scotland Yard team which visited Pakistan to investigate the assassination of Benazir Bhutto.