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Pakistan mourns national treasure

KARACHI (SE): The victim of an assassination in Karachi, Pakistan, on June 22, renowned qawwal, Amjad Farid Sabri, was described as the loss of a national treasure in a statement from the National Commission for Justice and Peace.

A statement signed by Father Emmanuel Yousaf Mani and Cecil Chaudhry says that the untimely death of the 45-year-old Sufi artist is a terrible loss for the nation, as now more than ever, Pakistan society is in great need of an artist capable of transcending all boundaries and blocks to the development of peace.

The word qawwal comes from the Arabic qaul, meaning an utterance of the prophet, and a qawwal is an artist who recites the messages as poetry or sings the lyrics in a mystical manner.

Originally mostly confined to Sufi temples and shrines, in modern times it has become a form of popular music.

Sabri’s father, Ghulan Farid Sabri, was one of Pakistan’s most celebrated masters of the art of qawwal.

As a Sufi art form, it has been condemned by both the Taliban and Sunni groups, which regard Sufism as heretical.

Father Mani and Chaudhry praised Farid Sabri for his contribution to the promotion of peace through his qawwali music, saying he was a respected artist of the highest calibre.

“No artist can fill the vacuum created by (the death of) Amjad Sabri and we need to stand united against the forces that are out to harm us as a nation,” the statement from the commission says.

Bishop Joseph Arshad, the chairperson of the commission, prayed for the family, friends and fans of the deceased qawwal, saying that the uncertainty of life commands sympathy.

He encouraged everyone to pray for the master of qawwali that his soul may rest in eternal peace and God may grant his family the strength to overcome this irreparable loss.

On June 23, people were asked to rally in front of the Press Club in Lahore in order to protest against the murder of a national treasure.

It was organised by the Rawadari Tehreek (Movement for Tolerance), an interfaith organisation dedicated to countering militancy and violence by creating alternative pluralistic narratives that can empower people and bring people of different ethnic and religious backgrounds together to promote peace.

“The killing of a Sufi singer who promoted a soft image of Islam and human values is beyond understanding,” Samson Salamat, a Christian and chairperson of the Rawadari said.

“Such people are significant in our religiously diverse society plagued by extremists. Unfortunately their message is being sidelined,” he continued.

Farid Sabri was attacked by two men on a motor cycle and shot three times in the head. An assistant and a driver died with him and a three-day period of national mourning was declared by Muttahida Qaumi Movement, a political party in Pakistan.

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