KARACHI, May 13: A well-known religious scholar was gunned down in what police described as a sectarian attack in the Bahadurabad area on Sunday.

The police said Maulana Aslam Shaikhupuri with his two guards — Wazeer Ali and Najamuddin — and driver Muhammad Safrain was on his way to Al-Quran Courses Centre in Bahadurabad in a car (AFU-655) to deliver a fortnightly lecture there.

When the car reached near Rangoonwala Hall within the remit of the New Town police station, three men riding a motorcycle intercepted the vehicle and sprayed it with a volley of bullets.

Gulshan division SP Salam Shaikh told Dawn that none of the cleric’s guards could return fire.

Quoting the statement of one of the two guards, who also sustained bullet wounds in the attack, the SP said one of the assailants got off the two-wheeler and went over to the other side of the car and fired several shots at it.

All the four occupants of the car, including Maulana Shaikhupuri, who was sitting in the back seat of the car with a guard, sustained bullet wounds, the area SP said, adding that the assailants rode away on their motorbike.

The police said the wounded were rushed to the Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre, where the Maulana was pronounced dead on arrival and shortly after driver Safrain also died.

However, JPMC medico-legal officer Dr Kaleem Shaikh said Maulana Sheikhupuri and his driver were brought dead to the hospital.

The police collected several spent bullet casings of 9mm pistols from the crime-scene.

SP Shaikh said it appeared to be an incident of sectarian killing. However, investigators were looking at it from every angle.

Hearing the news of the killing, a large number of students, associates and friend of the slain cleric reached the JPMC.

The police said for the last four years the cleric used to visit Al-Quran Courses Centre in Bahadurabad on second Sunday of every month to deliver a lecture. Owners of the centre provided him a pick-and-drop facility in their car.

Maulana Sheikhupuri, 54, belonged to the Deoband school of thought and held the title of shaikhul hadees. He was the prayer leader of Masjid-o-Madressah Tawabeen in Gulshan-i-Maymar.

He had completed his religious education from Jamia Binoria, SITE. He was a Hafiz-i-Quran and had memorised the holy book in just 11 months, his associates said. He authored hundreds of books on religious topics.

He had been handicapped in the legs for the last three years after a stroke.

Following the medico-legal formalities at the JPMC, the body of the cleric was shifted to Gulshan-i-Maymar. Enraged youths accompanying the coffin fired into the air.

Later, Maulana Taqi Usmani led his funeral prayer, which was held in the Madressah Tawaban.

Till late in the night, no FIR of the killing was lodged at the New Town police station.