Islamabad – Unidentified assailants gunned down two people including a local leader of the Ahle Sunnat Wal Jammat (ASWJ) in the federal capital on Friday evening.
According to police and eyewitnesses, ASWJ Islamabad chapter’s General Secretary, Mufti Muneer Ahmed Muawiya, and Asad Mehmood, an ASWJ activist, were attacked in sector I-8/3 around 5pm, before Maghrib prayers, as they were driving away from the area in Mauwiya’s car.
Mauwiya had come to I-8/3 to visit his father-in-law, Maulana Abdul Hameed Sabri, at the Maaz Ibne Jabal mosque in the sector’s Sangam market where Sabri is a prayer leader.
Mauwiya, who was in his early 30s, had been released from police custody on Thursday night. He had been among several ASWJ protesters who were arrested on December 24 as they tried to march from Islamabad towards Raja Bazaar, where Chehlum procession was ongoing.
His black Toyota sedan was intercepted at the chowk near the corner of Street 63 by two gunmen on a motorcycle, who opened fire on the car from the driver’s side.
The bullets shattered the glass of the driver’s window, hitting both Mauwiya, who was driving, and Mehmood, in the passenger seat, in the head and chest, eyewitness Furqan Majeed told The Express Tribune. Both succumbed to their injuries on the spot.
Police officials said eyewitness accounts suggest the shooters sped away in the direction of Faizabad, Rawalpindi. The car got out of control and ended up on a green belt on Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan road, some fifty yards away from where it was attacked.
Some seminary students and ASWJ activists staged a brief protest at the site of the incident, before the dead bodies of the victims were taken to the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences.
Inspector General of Islamabad Police Sikandar Hayat, Senior Superintendent Police Operations Muhammad Rizwan and other senior officials visited the I-8/3 mosque on Friday night and met with Sabri.
Sources said during the meeting, police requested Sabri and the mosque administration to provide them with CCTV footage from cameras installed outside the mosque. The footage could help police determine if the attackers followed the ASWJ leader from the mosque, sources said.
Police officials said they are not ruling out the sectarian angle in their investigations about the killings.
ASWJ Deputy Secretary Masoodur Rehman Usmani announced that the funeral prayer of the two deceased would be offered at 10 am in front of a United Nations (UN) building in Islamabad.
By the time of the filing of this report, ASWJ was still deciding on which of the few UN buildings its activists would gather near to offer the funeral prayers. Some UN offices are located in the capital’s high security Red Zone, and if the ASWJ tries to congregate there, it could lead to a potential showdown with the police and district administration.
ASWJ had previously staged a sit-in protest at Faizabad after its Punjab leader was killed in Lahore in December, but Usmani said ASWJ’s top leadership will decide future strategy after the funeral prayers.
Scores of people have lost their lives in a spate of sectarian-motivated target killings in the country since December 2013. The victims included Shia cleric Allama Nasir Abbas and ASWJ Punjab President Shamsur Rehman Mauwiya who were shot dead by unidentified persons during the last month of 2013.