For Amjad Sabri, an overwhelming show of respect and unity
Karachi Rising above the plethora of misguided sectarian, ethnic and political divisions gnawing at the very fabric of Pakistani society, scores of mourners stood shoulder to shoulder at Amjad Sabri’s funeral prayers on Thursday, united in their grief over the loss of yet another life to a seemingly ceaseless cycle of violence.
The massive gathering was, truly, an immense show of respect for a man unanimously accepted as a cultural icon. It was, in essence, a show of resolve and defiance from Karachi and Pakistan; our way of foiling the hate-mongers’ attempts to divide, our way of bidding farewell to one more person we simply were not ready to let go of yet. For veteran journalist Mubashir Zaidi, yesterday’s ceremony was among the largest funeral gatherings ever witnessed in a city that, tragically, has been host to more than its fair share.
As he aptly observed, the mass outpour of grief over Sabri’s murder rightly indicates that the legendary artiste was owned by the people of Pakistan, not any specific political group or religious community. “The mass of mourners, which included men, women and the elderly, at the funeral is testament to the fact that Amjad Sabri lived for the people,” said Zaidi. Amid intensive security measures by the Rangers and police, Maulana Ahmed Deewan Massoud, the spiritual heir at the shrine of Sufi saint Baba Farid in Pakpattan, led the funeral prayers held on the main Liaquatabad Road. An endless stream of mourners, extending for miles, accompanied the scion of the legendary Sabri family to his final resting place; next to his father, Ghulam Farid Sabri, at the Paposh Nagar graveyard.
Known faces from different religious groups, civil society and political parties were identifiable among the sea of people present to pay their final respects, but all were one on a day of unprecedented solidarity. Talking to The News, Hassan Bin Khursheed, son of renowned Naat Khwan Khursheed Ahmed, said the emotions of the attendees testified to how much he was loved by all communities and schools of thought. “People loved him from the heart because he loved the Holy Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him). His life was dedicated to illuminating our hearts with a love for the Prophet (PBUH) and, for that, Amjad will remain alive in our memories forever,” he said.“He was a true ambassador of Sufism and the sheer scale of his funeral shows that his ideology never posed a danger of further fragmenting our society.”
Recalling Sabri’s fond association with Liquatabad, his ancestral area where his life was spent and tragically ended, Khursheed said: “Whenever Amjad was asked about where he lived, he quipped that he was a resident of LA – for him, Liaquatabad was as good as Los Angeles.” “He was an embodiment of humility. The special bond he shared with his neighbourhood and its people was truly remarkable and reflected his grounded personality.” Raees Ahmed, a television personality who was also amongst the attendees, expressed that the artiste was loved by all lovers of peace and coexistence. “We all demand that Amjad’s murder be probed immediately and in a transparent matter. The culprits deserve exemplary punishment so that no one will ever dare to take the law into their own hands.” Investigation pitfalls Senior journalist Mazhar Abbas fears that the murder of the internationally acclaimed artiste would fall prey to the same poor investigation standards witnessed in other such high-profile killings.
“It is heart-wrenching to see how clueless our investigation agencies really are right now, despite having access to CCTV footage that actually shows the perpetrators.” About the claims being made by various terrorist groups accepting responsibility for the attack on the slain qawwal, Abbas said it was too early to form a definitive opinion over the matter, particularly since the investigators have not shared much information. He added that investigators probing other high profile cases were also yet to dig out concrete facts, stating that, at times, no results were garnered despite having the actual culprits identified.“Suspects are either acquitted by the courts due to a lack of evidence, or the law enforcers arrest the wrong people. This is what has been happening in many high profile cases, including the murder case of Murtaza Bhutto, in which all the suspects were acquitted in the end.” Abbas was also highly critical of the manner in which some media persons were treating Sabri’s murder case, stating that they were behaving irresponsibly and misinforming the masses. “Unfortunately, some anchors, analysts and writers are taking unverified stories about the case and presenting them as facts on the electronic and print media. All of this is just being done for ratings and is highly condemnable as it is negatively impacting the case and its investigations.”
“In the proper manner, there are filters and gate-keepers between the flow of information from the social media to the mainstream media. Sadly, in Pakistan, that does not seem to be the case yet. It is worrying to see that our mainstream media outlets have started relying on information from social media forums without the required checks and verification. If allowed to continue, this will not just adversely impact our journalism, rather the effects will trickle down to our society in general.” A case in point is a picture that has gone viral on social media platforms since Sabri’s murder. It shows two motorcyclists, one of them holding a gun in his hand, and is being shared as the assailants of Amjad Sabri. However, talking about a real tweet posted by Muttahida Qaumi Movement leader Mustafa Azizabadi – in which he stated that Amjad Sabri was receiving death threats since he had declined an offer to join the Syed Mustafa Kamal-led Pak Sarzameen Party (PSP) – Mubashir Zaidi termed it in “bad taste” and “point-scoring” at a wrong time. “The tweet, simply put, was in bad taste. If Amjad Sabri was receiving any threats, he could have declared it publically. Moreover, his brother Sarwat Sabri has also rejected the claim.” As for the investigation problems, Zaidi regretted that, despite claims of protecting the right to information, the country’s security agencies only shared “selective information” with the media, thereby fanning the flames of the fire that are conspiracy theories.