Karachi : Amjad Sabri, one of Pakistan’s finest Qawwals best known for his soul-stirring renditions of Sufi poetry, was on Thursday killed by unidentified gunmen who shot him in the head in a targeted terror attack.
The Hakimullah Mehsud faction, a splinter group of the Taliban, has claimed responsibility for the murder. The outfit’s spokesperson said it killed Sabri because he was a “blasphemer.” In 2014, the Islamabad High Court had issued a notice in a blasphemy case to two private TV channels for playing a qawwali during a morning show. The show had mixed a mock wedding with a qawwali sung by Sabri related to religious figures, and was considered offensive. Islamic extremists reject Sufi traditions and have targeted Sufis in the past.
To the Sabri brothers goes the credit of taking Qawwali – which is rooted in Sufism — to the West in the 70s. The group was started by the late Ghulam Farid Sabri and his younger brother Haji Maqbool Ahmed Sabri. Amjad Sabri was the son of Ghulam Sabri.
Amjad Sabri, 45, and an associate were travelling in a car in Karachi’s congested Liquatabad 10 area when two unidentified motorcycle-borne gunmen fired at their vehicle, critically injuring them. The two were rushed to hospital, where Sabri succumbed to his injuries. His associate also died.
Sabri was shot thrice – twice in the head and once in the ear. It was the bullet in the head that took the qawwal’s life. There was no immediate claim of responsibility but a senior police official said, “It was a targeted killing and an act of terrorism.” Sabri was apparently heading for the studio of a private television channel when he was attacked.
A senior official of the Sindh home department said they were looking into reports that Sabri had recently submitted an application seeking special security.
Sabri was known as ‘rockstar’ of Qawali due to his modern style of rendering Mystic poetry. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has condemned the attack and directed authorities to bring the perpetrators to justice.
The killing comes just two days after the son of a Sindh High Court Chief Justice was kidnapped and it raises serious security concerns in Pakistan’s biggest city. This week a doctor belonging to the minority Ahmadi community was also shot dead in his clinic by gunmen.
Opposition politicians have described Sabri’s killing as a total failure of the provincial government to ensure law and order. The spokesman for the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insasaf party, Naeem ul Haq, has called for capital punishment for those involved in heinous crimes. A senior member of the Mutthaida Qaumi Movement said the government should resign. “Militants belonging to different banned outfits are openly roaming in parts of Karachi and there is no one to stop them,” he said.
2015 Kashmir Despatch