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October 13, 2020

Will Maulana Adil’s assassination be yet another unsolved crime?


October 13, 2020

Failing to trace the perpetrators of the 2019 attack on eminent religious scholar Mufti Taqi Usmani and the 2015 attack on Maulana Aurangzaib Farooqi, law enforcement agencies are now faced with another major challenge after Saturday night’s assassination of Maulana Adil Khan.

In Karachi, which is considered the hub of Pakistan’s largest madrasas, over a dozen top scholars, including Muhammad Yousuf Ludhianvi and Mufti Nizamuddin Shamzai, have been murdered in the past two decades.

Prof Dr Adil Khan was the third top Sunni religious leader to have been attacked in the metropolitan city within a span of roughly six years. On March 22, 2019, Jamia Darul Uloom Karachi’s Mufti Usmani was on his way to deliver the Friday sermon at Jamia Masjid Baitul Mukarram on University Road when two motorbike pillion riders fired at his car on the ramp of the Nipa flyover.

Mufti Usmani and his family, all of whom were in the back seat, survived the attack, but their police guard Muhammad Farooq and driver Habib were killed. The investigators detained several suspects, but failed to trace the actual perpetrators.

On February 15, 2015, Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat chief Maulana Farooqi came under a terrorist attack in the city’s District Korangi during the wee hours and survived the attempt on his life.

Investigations were launched into the attack on Mufti Usmani, who is also a former judge, the attack on Maulana Farooqi and the recent assassination of Dr Khan, but none of them seemed to have made much progress. Keeping the similarities in view, the investigators are also trying to ascertain if there are any possible links between the attacks on the Sunni religious leaders.

“Belonging to the same sect, both [Mufti Usmani and Dr Khan] head/headed the two top madrasas of Pakistan: Darul Uloom and Jamia Binoria,” said a senior officer. “In fact, the assailants targeted both scholars minutes after they had left Darul Uloom.”

The forensic science laboratory’s reports in both the high-profile attacks state that the weapons used in the attacks do not match those used in any previous crime.

Young assailants on motorbikes were behind both the attacks. They had been following them from Darul Uloom, when the religious scholars were travelling as part of their routine.

“Both the attacks were carried out in the East Zone police jurisdiction,” said the officer. The investigators suspect that the same group might be behind both the attacks. They are also reviewing the CCTV camera footage of both the incidents.

“The attackers of both men may or may not have been the same,” said the officer. “But nothing can be said for sure until the investigations are completed.”

Despite Mufti Usmani and Dr Khan being among the top religious scholars, they were attacked as if they were soft targets, and the motive behind the attacks on them was to apparently create chaos in the city, or maybe in the entire country.

Though militant organisations have recently been found to be active in the country once again, it has been learnt that these attacks are apparently sponsored by foreign elements and are aimed at ruining the relatively peaceful atmosphere in Karachi with a larger conspiracy to trigger chaos in Pakistan.

“It might be said that a sleeper cell has been operating in the city from years ago,” senior counterterrorism officer Raja Umar Khattab told The News.

“This was the third major attack of this nature in Karachi. In the previous two attacks, the assailants failed to murder the religious leaders [Maulana Farooqi and Mufti Usmani], but this time they succeeded.”

Khattab said there was no major reaction to the failed attempts, but there might be a backlash this time. “Undoubtedly, the attackers are foreign-funded, and most probably, this sleeper cell is located in Korangi, where they return to their normal lives after targeting high-profile personalities.”

He said that as long as they remain untraced or unidentified, they will stay in the city or at least in the country, but they will escape abroad once they are exposed. The case of Dr Khan’s assassination is yet to be registered. It has been learnt that the victim’s family has refused to lodge a case, so it is likely to be registered on behalf of the state under the clauses of the Anti-Terrorism Act. It has also been learnt that the case is likely to be registered at a police station, but the investigation of the case will be handled by the Counter Terrorism Department.

Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam leader Qari Usman on Monday demanded the provision of security to religious scholars and leaders again. “Religious leaders and scholars will be forced to announce a wheel-jam strike if the terrorists involved in the recent assassination aren’t arrested by Tuesday [today],” he warned.

He wondered if the decision to not provide any security to religious scholars and leaders was part of some “conspiracy between the government and terrorists”.

Son of religious scholar Maulana Saleemullah Khan, 60-year-old Dr Adil Khan became Jamia Farooqia’s administrator after his father’s death. Dr Khan had stopped in Shah Faisal Colony to do some shopping. He was in his vehicle with his driver when motorbike pillion riders fired shots at both of them.