By Munawer Azeem , Thursday, 03 Sep, 2009
ISLAMABAD: Religious Affairs Minister Hamid Saeed Kazmi was injured in a brazen attack here on Wednesday. His driver was killed and a police guard injured.
The assailants attacked the minister’s car when he was leaving his ministry at G-6/3, some yards away from the Aabpara police station, along with his driver Mohammad Younus and guard Mohammad Ashraf.
According to officials, one attacker riding a bike had positioned himself at Street 31 (towards Garden Avenue) while the other on the opposite side.
They opened fire at the car with assault rifles and pistols when it approached the avenue.
The attackers chased the minister’s car for about 50 metres and continued firing after the driver tried to speed away. The driver lost control and rammed the car into a roadside tree after he received a bullet on his head.
About 25 bullets pierced through the car’s bonnet, roof, side doors and window screens. The minister, his driver and the police guard suffered multiple bullet wounds.
Bullet shells, including 30 empties of SMG, were found scattered on the road. The attackers left behind a bag containing two Kalashnikovs, a hand-grenade and a pistol. Police found another Kalashnikov near the ISI headquarters.
According to the sources, the weapons and bullets were sent to a laboratory and help of Nadra had been sought to trace the culprits through their fingerprints on the weapons.
The injured were taken to the Federal Government Services Hospital, which is about a kilometre from the scene.
According to doctors, the minister received two bullets on his leg. ‘His condition is stable, but he is in a state of shock,’ they added.
The driver suffered multiple shots in his head and chest and died on the spot.
The guard received five bullets in the upper part of his body and was stated to be in a critical condition.
Mr Kazmi has been an outspoken critic of the Taliban. His name appeared on the hit list of extremist religious groups after he declared suicide bombings un-Islamic, along with other moderate Barelvi scholars.
After the assassination of prominent Islamic scholar Allama Sarfraz Naeem in Lahore earlier this year, intelligence agencies had upgraded Mr Kazmi’s security.
A brother of the minister said that Mr Kazmi had been receiving threats for the past couple of months.
According to sources, Mr Kazmi had requested the government to provide a bullet proof car and police commandos.
A senior police officer told Dawn that ironically five police commandos deputed with the minister were not guarding him at the time of the incident.
According to sources, security agencies had taken the police commandos into custody for interrogation. Police said that 48 suspects had been taken into custody.
Some reports suggested that the police mobile escorting the minister’s car turned towards a filling station when the two vehicles left the religious ministry.
‘I saw two gunmen firing from two sides on the minister’s car. One of them was wearing a pink shirt and trousers. The other was on a bike which they used to escape after the attack,’ a witness said.
Another witness said the firing started the moment the minister’s car left the Ministry of Religious Affairs and it continued for some times.
A senior police officer told Dawn that an FIR had been registered under section PPC 302, 324, 334 and 7ATA on the complaint of a relative of the diseased driver in the Abpara police station.
Senior Superintendent of Police Tahir Alam Khan told reporters that a preliminary investigation had showed that the attackers were locals. He claimed that sufficient security cover had been provided to the minister.
Interior Minister Rehman Malik said the attack might be of a sectarian nature. He said he would be able to say something about the incident after the investigation.
The attackers would be arrested soon because police had found some important clues that he could not made public at this stage, the minister added.
Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani strongly condemned the incident. The prime minister, who is abroad on an official visit, ordered an inquiry into the shooting and said the perpetrators of such a crime would not be spared, according to an official handout.