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Famous Sufi Singer Killed In Pakistan

  • RFE/RL

Pakistani qawwali singer Amjad Sabri was traveling by car on June 22 when he was shot several times by unknown assailants on a motorcycle.

Pakistani qawwali singer Amjad Sabri was traveling by car on June 22 when he was shot several times by unknown assailants on a motorcycle.

Prominent Pakistani singer Amjad Sabri has been shot dead in Karachi in what police consider an act of terrorism.

Two unknown gunmen riding a motorcycle fired on Sabri's car in the southern port city's Liaqatabad area in the afternoon of June 22, according to local police.

The singer, a Sufi renowned for his spiritual music, died on his way to the hospital. Another passenger, believed to be his relative, was wounded in the attack.

Pakistani media quoted senior police official Muqaddas Haider as saying that "it was a targeted killing and an act of terrorism." Police said the motive for the killing was not yet known. There was no immediate claim of responsibility.

Sabri was one of Pakistan's most famous qawwali singers, a style of music rooted in Sufism, or Islamic mysticism.

Pakistani singer-songwriter Fakhr-e Alam wrote on Twitter that Sabri had formally asked the authorities "for protection" for his family, but that the police "did nothing."

Fakhr-e Alam said Sabri was lost to "intolerance," and accused the government of failing to protect its citizens, but did not elaborate.

Islamic hard-liners, including the Pakistani Taliban, reject Sufi traditions and have attacked Sufis in recent years.

Attacks carried out against Sufis in Pakistan in recent years include the 2010 bombing of the Data Darbar shrine in Lahore that killed more than 40 people.

A blasphemy case was filed against Sabri in May 2014, after a morning television show aired his song-and-dance routine about the wedding of the Prophet Muhammad's daughter. Sabri was not charged.

Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's Muslim League Party said on Twitter that Sharif "has strongly condemned" Sabri's assassination.

It said he has tasked law enforcement agencies with bringing to justice the perpetrators of the "terrorist attack."

Sabri regularly performed on a morning show on national television during the ongoing holy Muslim month of Ramadan.

Sabri hailed from a family of qawwali singers. A popular qawwali music duo of his father and uncle has dominated the qawwali scene in Pakistan and India since the 1970s.

Attacks on singers and performers are common in Pakistan, especially in the northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province, a Taliban stronghold.

Popular female singers Ghazala Javed and Gul Naz were shot dead in the city of Peshawar in 2012 and 2014, respectively. Bushra, an 18-year-old actress, suffered burns when acid was thrown on her face in 2013.

Sabri's attack came just two days after the son of the provincial high-court chief was abducted in Karachi by unknown people.

In May, prominent rights activist Khurram Zaki was shot dead in Karachi's central park. Zaki was known for his criticism of the Taliban and other Islamic extremist groups.

With reporting by RFE/RL's Radio Mashaal, Dawn.com, Tribune.com.pk, and AP
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