Prominent Pakistani rights activist Khurram Zaki was shot dead while having dinner with a friend at a restaurant in Karachi. His NGO blamed “Takfiri Deobandi militants” for the killing.
Zaki, 40, was with his journalist friend Rao Khalid when two attackers arrived on a motorcycle, sprayed bullets at them and sped away, the media quoted police as saying.
Rao Khalid and a bystander were critically wounded in the attack.
The News International said Zaki suffered multiple bullet wounds. The attackers used a 9 mm pistol. Ten spent cartridges were recovered from the scene of the crime.
A former journalist, Zaki was an active campaigner for human rights and edited the website and Facebook page “Let Us Build Pakistan (LUBP)”, which claimed to “spread liberal religious views”. He was known for his anti-militancy stance against sectarian organisations.
A Taliban faction has claimed responsibility for the killing. Police are yet to confirm this.
LUBP editor-in-chief Ali Abbas Taj offered condolences “to Pakistani nation on the martyrdom of Zaki” and said he was second from the editorial team of LUBP to be killed by the Deobandi militants.
“For the last one year, Zaki was a target of a systematic hate campaign by Deobandi fanatic Shamsuddin Amjad of the Jamaat-e-Islami Pakistan (JeI) in collaboration with the banned Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP).”
Taj said “hateful and violence inciting posters” against Zaki had been published recently by the Facebook page run by the pro-Taliban fanatics of JeI.
According to his Twitter profile, Zaki was the former head of current affairs for TV Channel News One, where he looked after infotainment and religious programming.
Zaki’s website Lubpak.com is currently blocked in Pakistan, Dawn News reported on Sunday.
Zaki was last in the media limelight alongside activist Jibran Nasir in a campaign against Lal Masjid cleric Maulana Abdul Aziz for inciting hatred against Shia Muslims.
The campaigners had managed to get a case registered against Aziz.
Rights activist Sabeen Mahmud, who was also gunned down in Karachi, had also taken part in the protest against Lal Masjid.
The Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), which has a strong base in Karachi condemned the killing and demanded the immediate arrest of the murderers.
“Zaki’s murder is condemnable. Incidents of targeted killing are occurring in spite of on-going operations in the city,” the MQM said.
LUBP described Zaki as a staunch critic of the systematic attacks on Shia Muslims, Sunni Sufis Muslims, Christians and other communities in Pakistan by Deobandi militants.
“In boldly highlighting and supporting the rights of Sunni Barelvis, Shias, Sufis, Ahmadis, Hindus and Christians, his contribution as citizen journalism was much bigger than all journalists combined in Pakistan.
“His death is the grim reminder that whoever raises voice against Taliban and Jamaat-e-Islami Deobandi mafia in Pakistan will not be spared. And when they have to murder, they never fail.”
Targeted killings are common to Karachi, a teeming city of 20 million. But the economic life line of Pakistan is also plagued by ethnic and sectarian violence. The presence of Taliban factions in the port city have worsened the situation analysts say.
Zaki’s killing comes weeks after Karachi paid rich tributes to Sabeen Mahmud. The 41 year old activist was shot dead by unknown assailants, when she was driving a car on 24 April 2015.