A former member of the Sindh Assembly was gunned down in Mehmoodabad on Saturday morning.
Malik Ata Muhammad, 57, was overseeing construction at one of his residential projects when two armed men on a motorcycle shot him dead. The assailants pumped three bullets into his chest and one in his head.
“There were two labourers [standing] with my father but the attackers did not do anything to them,” his eldest son Malik Waqar told The Express Tribune. “They directly went for my father. He was targeted.”
The SHO of Baloch Colony police station, where the case has been registered, saw it as a case of personal enmity. “We are looking into the matter,” said Murtaza Majeed. “The family suspects a personal enmity.”
Ahmadi or not?
Ata Muhammad was the last parliamentarian to be elected on a reserved seat for Ahmadis under the separate electorate system in 1993 and 1997.
While he had contested and won the reserved seat for Ahmadis, confusion lingers on his faith. Was he really an Ahmadi? And if not, then how did he become a member of the Sindh Assembly on a minority seat?
The former MPA’s family, his fellow parliamentarians and the Ahmadi community categorically denied that he was an Ahmadi.
Ata Muhammad’s son said that the family was Sunni and their father had just contested on a reserved seat. Concurring, the spokesperson of the Jama’at Ahmadiyya Pakistan, Saleemuddin, rejected claims that Ata Muhammad had any affiliation with the community. “He was never an Ahmadi and neither did he become one,” he said. “The government should have taken notice of this when he had contested elections using our name.”
Ahmadis do not stand for elections nor do they vote.
A minority MPA claimed that Ata Muhammad had contested the elections by acquiring a fake certificate. “Since Ahmadis did not contest the elections, influential parliamentarians forced non-Ahmadis to contest on their reserved seats so that they do not go to waste.”
Ata Muhammad was a strong believer of inter-faith harmony. The tent outside his residence in Mehmoodabad was a testimony to this as mourners from different religious communities condoled with the family.
He openly raised a voice for the rights of the Ahmadi community and the injustice meted out to them. He was also the vice chairman of the National Peace Committee for Interfaith Harmony and Human Rights.
Michael Javed, a former MPA, who was with Ata Muhammad in the assembly, recalls him being vocal about minorities and not letting anyone else interrupt him. “He was at the front when we all passed a resolution for the exclusion of the religion column in CNICs in the assembly,” he said. “When he spoke, officials were scared and asked him not to speak so openly in the assembly.”
Another former parliamentarian, Bherulal Balani of the Hindu community, considered Ata one of his closest friends. “We became friends when we were not in the assembly,” he said. “Religion never came between us.”
Three days before his death, Ata Muhammad called him to get ready as they were going out but he got busy and couldn’t come, Balani said. “And now I am coming to his house for his funeral.”
Ata was an active social worker and every month, around 50 women would come to receive rations from him. “He was very helpful. Just before he was murdered, a family had come to him, asking for money to buy a pedestal fan for their daughter’s dowry. Ata said he would donate three fans,” said Dr Harish, a minority representative of the Pakistan Muslim League-Functional.
With his wife passing away in 1997, Ata Muhammad also played mother to his six children. “He wanted all of us to settle in Germany,” said Malik Waqar, crying. “That was why he was constructing a building and planned to sell it off [and move away]. But now he’s gone.”
Published in The Express Tribune, September 23rd, 2012.