LAHORE  - A joint investigation team (JIT) has launched probe into the killing of Allama Nasir Abbas Multani, a leader of the Tehreek-i-Nifaz-i-Fiqh Jafaria (TNFJ) who was killed by motorcyclists in a drive-by shooting near Ferozpur Road underpass late Sunday.

The targeted killing stoked nationwide protests as rallies and demonstrations were staged in different parts of the country to condemn the sectarian attack.

A senior police officer told TheNation that apparently it was a ‘sectarian assault’ in which four unidentified men targeted the cleric with automatic guns. Police have registered a murder case against unidentified killers no arrest made so far.

Lahore Capital City Police Officer (CCPO) Chaudhry Shafique Ahmed termed the incident targeted killing and said two special police teams were also investigating to unearth the killers behind the attack.

Sources revealed that it seemed to be a well-thought-out plan since the killers targeted the religious leader in an organised way. A police investigator said that the gun attack was identical to the killing of Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat (ASWJ) leader, Maulana Shamsur Rehman Muawiya, who was targeted in Ravi Road police area when he was coming back after offering Friday prayers on December 6.

The joint investigation team, comprising police officers and intelligence operatives, collected evidences from the crime scene and also recorded the statements of the eyewitness. However, they are yet to get any solid clue to hunt down the killers.

The investigators are probing into the murder keeping in view various aspects of happening including the possibility of sectarian assault, another police official said. 

Sources revealed that the involvement of foreign hand in igniting sectarian trouble in Pakistan could not be ruled out. The assassination of 42-year-old leader of TNFJ could be the handiwork of foreign agencies which are hostile to the country.

Crimes and security experts say that there is a need to adopt multiple ways for the progress and prosperity of the country and all the sectarian groups need to think being a Pakistani first. This message should be sent to all the seminaries indicating the hostile designs of anti-Pakistan forces engaged to destabilise Pakistan, they added.

A medical officer, who examined body of Abbas before the autopsy told reporters that the father of seven sustained four bullets in the head, neck, and chest.

Initial investigations reveal that the gunmen started chasing the car of Allama Abbas as he left for his residence after attending a Majlis at Qaumi Markaz in Shah Jamal area.

A member of the Ittehad Bainul Muslimeen Committee said that the government should monitor the literature published by different Madaris and those found guilty of spreading hateful communication must be brought to books. He also warned that the public must be reminded as to how Muslim countries were exploited on sectarian basis by the imperialists and strong Muslim states were completely destroyed. “We cannot afford to become the target of such internal violence. Our survival lies in unity and inter-sect harmony,” he maintained. He also suggested that the code of conduct issued by the Ittehad Bainul Muslimeen Committee, set up by Punjab government, should be implemented strictly in order to maintain religious harmony, brotherhood, and tolerance.

As per the code of conduct, he added, the use of loudspeaker has been banned except for Azaan and Friday sermon. No hate speech will be made against any school of thought while prior permission from local administration will be sought to hold congregations.

All Ulema should be given due respect and protection of worship places of all schools of thought must be ensured. The government has also imposed a complete ban on display of weapons in meetings, processions, mosques, Imambargahs and other worship places.

Religious scholars from both sects need to foster tolerance and educate people about the significance of maintaining inter-faith harmony for greater good of the country.

Different religious organizations have also demanded the government to take concrete measures to smash terror network in the Punjab province since the killings are on the rise.

Heavy police contingents are deployed around Masajids and Imambargahs in all major cities because a violent reaction cannot be ruled out against the killing of Allama Abbas.