THOUSANDS of Pakistanis last Thursday (23) thronged the streets of Karachi to attend the funeral of one of the country’s best-known Sufi musicians, who was gunned down a day earlier in what police called an “act of terror”.
The funeral prayers for Amjad Sabri, which were held on the city’s major Ibn-e-Sina thoroughfare, brought together large numbers of both Sunni and Shi’ite Muslims, with many praising his devotional music, humble lifestyle and charity work.
He was shot dead by two gunmen riding a motorcycle last Wednesday (22) as he drove his car to a TV studio where he was due to perform for a Ramadan show. Another male relative, Saleem Sabri, was critically injured in the attack.
Senior police official Muqaddas Haider called the killing an “act of terror” without naming possible suspects.
Sabri, the son of another legendary Qawwali singer, Ghulam Farid Sabri, who died in 1994, was a fixture on national television and regularly performed on a morning show during the holy Muslim month of Ramadan.
In May 2014 he was asked by a court to respond to blasphemy charges following the broadcast of a controversial song-anddance routine that was set to a Qawwali piece about the wedding of the Prophet Mohammed’s daughter to his cousin.
Dozens of police and paramilitary Rangers on Thursday guarded the funeral procession winding its way down the road, as a sea of mourners, some wearing black armbands, others in coloured turbans that signified their sects, surrounded the ambulance carrying Sabri’s body to its resting place. Many crowded to touch the ambulance, a gesture of reverence for the deceased.
Shops and businesses in the Liaquatabad and Nazimbad areas shut down for the day.
One mourner, Shaheen Iqbal, said she had asked Sabri for help just days earlier. “He gave me rations for Ramadan and some money. He also promised to help me get a small apartment,” she said, tearfully.
Mohammad Farooq Khan, a 36-year-old who contracted polio as a child, said he had walked 12km from the city’s north on his crutches to attend the singer’s last rites. Some observers have said that
Sabri may have been assassinated because he was a highprofile Sufi, a mystic Islamic order that believes in living saints, worships through music and is viewed as heretical by some hardline groups, including the Taliban.
A man claiming to belong to a little-known faction of the Pakistani Taliban said his group took responsibility for the attack in a phone call last Wednesday (22), though it was not possible to verify the claim and a senior official said police were still investigating.