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March 23, 2019

Renowned religious scholar Taqi Usmani escapes life attempt in Karachi

Top Story

March 23, 2019

KARACHI: As the country was busy in preparations for the Pakistan Day, prominent religious scholar and a former judge Mufti Muhammad Taqi Usmani escaped a failed assassination attempt when at least six armed assailants targeted him in broad daylight in Karachi’s Gulshan-e-Iqbal area on Friday afternoon. The deadly attack, however, took the lives of two of his security guards, including a policeman, and injured two drivers.

The attack occurred at around 1:03pm when Mufti Taqi Usmani was on his way to the Baitul Mukkaram Masjid on the University Road in Gulshan-e-Iqbal to lead the Friday prayers as per routine. His wife, two grandsons were also accompanied by him.

Fortunately, Mufti Usmani and all of his family members remained unhurt in the assassination attempt. But, at the same time, his two security guards including a police constable lost their lives and two of his drivers were also wounded, one in critical condition. “Mufti Sahib, his wife, two minor grandsons, a police guard and a driver were in a black Honda Civic while a security guard of Darul Uloom, Sanobar Khan and a driver Amir Shahab, were in a Toyota Corolla,” Wafaqul Madaris Al-Arabia, Pakistan spokesperson Maulana Ibrahim Sakargahi told The News. In the failed attempt, a police constable, namely Farooq Hanif who was in Mufti Usmani’s car, lost his life as he was shot in head and a driver, identified as Habib, was wounded. A Darul Uloom’s security guard Sanobar Khan was killed and driver Amir Shahab, who were in Toyota Corolla, were critically wounded.

Mufti Usmani, a judge of the Federal Shariat Court from 1982 to 2002 and the vice-president of Darul Uloom Karachi, was on his way to the Baitul Mukkaram Masjid from Darul Uloom, Korangi, as per routine to lead the Friday prayers when the failed attack occurred. The news spread like a jungle fire and a large number of students and supporters also gathered at hospital; however, no untoward incident occurred.

“They (armed assailants) attacked my car from all sides,” narrated Mufti Usmani while addressing the worshippers and his students after the Asr prayers at Darul Uloom, Korangi. “But Allah saved me and failed them (attackers).”

He said that the attackers attempted to kill him twice. “After the attackers failed to kill me for the first time, they returned and opened indiscriminate fire at me again but they still failed,” he explained. “My driver is a brave man who continued to drive and managed to reach the hospital.”

A heavy contingent of law enforcers, including police and Rangers, also reached the site of the incident to inquire about the incident and to collect evidence. The investigators have also obtained the footage from CCTV cameras installed nearby.

The CCTV footage shows at least six unidentified suspects on three motorcycles were behind the incident. “The men wearing helmets on two motorcycles attacked the Mufti Usmani’s car while two more assailants on another motorcycle were on the back-up support,” the CCTV footage showed. The footage further showed that the suspects first shot at a silvered Toyota Corolla and then black Honda Civic which followed the first one when the vehicles were moving on the University Road from the NIPA Flyover.

Inspector General of Police (IGP), Sindh, Dr Syed Kaleem Imam, shortly after the incident told the media that Maulana Taqi leads the Friday prayers at the Baitul Mukkaram Masjid and was on his way there when he was targeted, adding that the police were investigating the case. The IGP Sindh also sought a detailed report from the SSP District East over the incident. The IGP Sindh also held a high-level meeting at the Central Police Office over the law and order situation and ordered to improve security measures.

The Sindh Chief Minister, Syed Murad Ali Shah, also took notice and ordered the Karachi Police chief to arrest the attackers as soon as possible. “I want to know how this happened and why,” the CM questioned while ordering more patrolling in Karachi and stricter security at mosques in the city.

The driver of Mufti Usmani played a vital role in saving his (Mufti Usmani) life as he continued to drive the car and managed to reach the Liaquat National Hospital though he was shot in his shoulders. He was now said to be out of danger while another driver Habib was said to be in critical condition. Police investigators said that a total of 15 bullets were fired on both the vehicles. The empties of the 9mm pistols recovered from the crime scene were sent to the forensic division of the Sindh Police for ballistics cross-matching. Police investigators were looking for the forensic reports.

Karachi Police chief, Additional IG Karachi Dr Amir Shaikh, while inspecting the crime scene, told the media that the incident was aimed at creating harassment and to sabotage the peace of city. He suspected the involvement of foreign hands like the Chinese Consulate attack. “To target personalities like Mufti Taqi Usmani is a conspiracy in the days when peace is returning to Karachi and the Pakistan Day is to be held today (Saturday),” said Additional IG Karachi. “People from all sects love and respect him (Mufti Usmani).” He said that foreign elements were found involved in the Chinese Consulate attack and it is believed that foreign elements would also be involved in today’s incident. “These elements want to sabotage the peace not only of Karachi but the entire country. It was a conspiracy to create sectarian violence but they have failed to do so,” he said.

On the other hand, police officials were looking for the complainant to register a case and said that police will register a case on behalf of the state in case the complainant refused to lodge the FIR. “Some forces, particularly foreign elements, were unhappy with the success of PSL and they even wanted to sabotage the Pakistan Day,” said District East SSP Ghulam Azfar Mahesar while talking to The News. “We are now looking for the complainants to register a case.”

On the other hand, senior police investigators privy to the matter told The News that the incident was apparently linked to the ongoing sectarian violence. “It might be an incident of pre-planned act of sectarianism,” claimed a senior police investigator. “We fear tit-for-tat killings now.”

Meanwhile, a police mobile van with four jawans and Rangers troops were provided to Mufti Usmani following the attempted assassination. “Mufti Sahib was only provided two police guards – one Shafqat was withdrawn due to the PSL duty while currently, he had only one police guard (deceased Farooq) with him,” Wafaqul Madaris Al-Arabia, Pakistan spokesperson Maulana Ibrahim Sakargahi told The News. “We were not provided with proper security despite asking for many times. My question is why the government or law enforcement agencies do anything for the security of religious leaders only after a major mishap occurs?"

Farooq Hanif, 26, the deceased policeman who lost his life in the failed attempted assassination was laid to rest on Friday night at a local graveyard in the Mansehra Colony. A large number of people attended his funeral prayers. The deceased has left behind a widow and seven children. Three of his children are blind by birth. He also used to run the family of his widow sister, a mother of five children. The deceased cop, who was posted to Security Zone II, after returning from his security duty at 8pm, used to run a puncture shop near his residence in Mansehra Colony.

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