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KARACHI, Nov 7, (Agencies): Pakistani police have arrested two militants accused of assassinating one of the country’s best known Sufi musicians, a provincial minister said Monday. Amjad Sabri, a renowned Qawwal or sufi singer was shot dead by two gunmen riding a motorcycle in Karachi in June, triggering an outpouring of grief over what police described as an “act of terror”. Syed Murad Ali Shah, chief minister of southern Sindh province, of which Karachi is the capital, said that police late Sunday arrested two militants suspected of involvement in Sabri’s murder.
“For the first time we are offi cially announcing… with conclusive proof that these very people were involved in Amjad Sabri’s murder,” Shah told reporters. He said both the suspects belonged to the anti-Shiite Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) militant group — a faction of which claimed to have worked with the Islamic State to attack a police academy in southwestern Pakistan last month killing 61 people, the deadliest assault on a security installation in the country’s history.
The suspects were also responsible for 28 terror attacks against army personnel, policemen and Shiite Muslims, he added. Sabri was a fixture on national television and regularly performed on a morning show during the holy Muslim month of Ramadan, winning many admirers for his devotional music, humble lifestyle and charitable work.
Some observers have said that Sabri may have been assassinated because he was a high-profi le 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. Karachi, a city of 20 million and Pakistan’s economic hub, is frequently hit by religious, political and ethnic violence. Paramilitary forces began a sweeping crackdown on militants in the city in 2013, which has led to a substantial drop in overall levels of violence.
Meanwhile, Pakistani police detained several Sunni and Shiite Muslim leaders in a probe over recent sectarian attacks in the southern port city of Karachi, prompting protests and clashes Monday, police said. Faisal Raza Abidi, an outspoken former anti-Taliban Shiite lawmaker from Pakistan’s liberal People’s Party, is among those facing questioning, said counter-terrorism police offi cer Junaid Sheikh. The police and Pakistan’s paramilitary forces have raided both Sunni and Shiite religious seminaries over the last two days, detaining an unspecifi ed number of people, Sheikh said. Sunni and Shiite activists have rallied in Karachi, protesting against the raids.
One of the rallies by the Shiites blocked a highway for eight hours, which the police dispersed with tear gas. Police offi cer Razaq Khan said protesters clashed with police and pelted them with stones. Pakistan’s Sunni militants, many affi liated with the Taliban and al-Qaida, have long targeted minority Shiites, considering them to be heretics. The police suspect some of Karachi’s recent sectarian killings of Sunnis could be the work of Shiite militants.
The raids also arrested two militants from the Taliban-linked sectarian group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, who were allegedly involved in several killings, provincial chief minister Murad Ali Shah said. The police raids also sealed religious seminaries, he said, but he wouldn’t say how many. In another development, Pakistan on Monday delayed the planned deportation of Sharbat Gula, the green-eyed “Afghan Girl” whose 1985 photo in National Geographic became a symbol of her country’s wars, an Afghan offi cial said. Now in her 40s with four children, Gula has been hospitalised for most of the time since her arrest last month on charges of living illegally in Pakistan. A judge sentenced her last week to be deported.
Waheedullah, a spokesman for the Afghan consulate in Peshawar, said Afghan diplomats had convinced Pakistani authorities to allow her to stay in hospital until Wednesday. She then would be delivered to the Afghan border authorities at Torkham on Wednesday and from there she would be fl own to Kabul where Afghan President Ashraf Ghani would host a function in her honour. “The Afghan president has also announced a house for her in Kabul where she will live with her children,” said Waheedullah, who like many Afghans uses only one name