‘Good degrees and Kalashnikovs’

Published: May 21, 2015
SSUET graduate Muhammad Azhar Ishrat (left) and IBA graduate Saad Aziz (Right).

SSUET graduate Muhammad Azhar Ishrat (left) and IBA graduate Saad Aziz (Right).

KARACHI: In the fall of 2010, Saad Aziz walked up to a fellow student in IBA’s parking lot and asked: “Have you read Milestones by Sayyid Qutb? It has changed my life.”

Qutb, who is now increasingly cited as the figure who influenced al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, is known as one of the most influential advocates in modern times of jihad.

The ‘change’ in Saad’s life, as narrated by some of his friends at IBA, began sometime in his third year at IBA. Fast-forward five years and the 27-year-old IBA graduate was named by Sindh’s chief minister as the mastermind behind the deadly Safora carnage and murder of activist Sabeen Mahmud in Karachi.

Read: Protesters demand formation of judicial commission to probe Sabeen Mahmud murder

Friends recall that Saad was a ‘normal’ kid. He played football for IBA United and had a GPA above 3.0.

“For the first two years, he was a burger kid. He had girlfriends and we would have shisha at Indulge. He was funny, acted in plays and danced,” said a young man who was once a close friend.

But that all ended in his third year and his friends began noticing the radical nature of some of the changes Saad made in his life. He stopped talking to girls, began bunking classes and grew his beard out. He also dropped his old friends and began hanging out with religious-minded people from IBA’s Iqra Society.

After graduation, Saad lost touch with his friends. “He went somewhere for a few months. Someone said he had gone for jihad training,” said another friend.

“We knew he had gone off-track. He was not part of the Tableeghi Jamaat. He had become part of something else.”

In the year 2013, around eight ‘like-minded’ IBA graduates from the 2010 and 2011 batches began publishing an online magazine, titled ‘Al Rashideen’ [The Rightly Guided] in English.

Saad, who had expertise in producing different kind of pro-al Qaeda and Taliban media, was a part of its editorial team. “We present you this first issue of Al Rashideen,” he wrote under the screen-name ‘the editor’s desk’.

“We hope this to be a platform where relevant issues facing the Ummah are studied and analysed upon by students of colleges and universities, and Muslim youngsters whose first or second language is English.”

The first issue of this amateurishly-designed magazine, a copy of which is available with The Express Tribune, had “Iran must fall before Palestine can be liberated” as its cover story along with other disturbingly radical content. For instance, a sectarian speech made by Haq Nawaz Jhangvi , who founded Sipah-e-Sahaba in the 1980, was translated and reproduced with the title ‘The men who rocked Kufr’.

Saad, who did his O-levels from Beacon House and A-levels from Lyceum, is married and even has a baby daughter. He belongs to a well-to-do family; his father was once a director at Unilever, while he himself owns a restaurant.

Read: Arrested Safoora attack mastermind behind Sabeen’s murder: Sindh CM

At the Cactus

At the restaurant Aziz owned, employees refused to believe that he could be involved in such heinous acts of terrorism.

“We can’t believe that he is a terrorist,” said a waiter at the Cactus, a restaurant which serves steaks, burgers and fries in Karachi’s Sindhi Muslim area. Formerly known as Kahva, the restaurant was taken over by Saad around two years ago.

Abdul Ahad, in-charge of the delivery for the restaurant, said they never saw him doing anything suspicious. “No one came to meet him, and we never saw him speaking to anyone suspicious.”

The employees saw him every day save Sundays. He came in late afternoon and left at night. “If he is involved in such activities, they should give proof.”

Police version

According to DIG South Jamil Ahmed, Saad had attended a number of T2F sessions. “He would not seem out of place because he seemed educated.”

However, it is yet to be confirmed whether Saad was present at the Balochistan session after which Sabeen was murdered.

“The terrorists belong to al Qaeda’s India branch. The group is using educated people to carry out bold and atrocious attacks.”

Al Qaeda subcontinent is a splinter group, a mixture of al Qaeda and Hizb ur Tahrir. “Hizb ur Tahrir is not violent but this group is using their ideology and literature,” said DIG Ahmed.

A joint investigation team probing the suspects will divulge further details soon, he said, adding that the terrorists belonging to this group are “computer literate with good degrees and 9mm and Kalshinkhovs.”

Mohammad Azhar Ishrat – the ‘ambulance’

Another suspect, Muhammad Azhar Ishrat was paving his way to the top. His colleagues were left in utter disbelief when news broke of his involvement in the recent terror attacks.

“I’m finding it hard to believe since he is an extremely bright individual and an expert in his line of work,” a colleague told The Express Tribune.

“I never noticed any extremist tendencies in his behavior,” he added.

“Though he was very religious and had grown a Shahid Afridi-like beard, he was very accommodating to the views of others,” the colleague said.

Read: Macabre violence: Ugly face of terror

Ishrat graduated in electronic engineering from the Sir Syed University of Engineering and Technology (SSUET) in 2004. Before that he had completed his Intermediate from the Defence Authority Degree College for Men.

After graduation, a promising future lay ahead of Ishrat as he secured his first job at one of the largest engineering conglomerates, Siemens Pakistan, in October 2004.

“At Siemens, they used to call me ‘ambulance’,” Ishrat shared on his LinkedIn profile. “I was known for my pace of work and was usually deployed for saving projects that lagged behind their timeline or were about to cross the budget.”

Exactly a year later, the country’s first GSM-based cellular operator, Mobilink, recruited him.

After working as a radio-frequency planning engineer for around four years at Mobilink, he was promoted to the position of radio access network (RAN) team-head in the South region, comprising Sindh and Balochistan, a colleague confirmed, while requesting anonymity as he was not authorised to disclose any information to the media.

But it all changed on Wednesday after Sindh Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah announced Ishrat was involved in an attack on the Ismail community in Karachi and a number of other high-profile attacks, including the murder of Sabeen Mahmud.

Shah said Ishrat had been involved in terrorist activities since 2011, with expertise in making bombs and electronic circuits used as timers in such bombs.

Police officials from intelligence agencies visited Ishrat’s alma mater Thursday morning where they held an hour-long meeting with Vice Chancellor Dr Syed Jawaid Hassan Rizvi, Varsity’s Registrar Syed Abrar Ali and other officials.

“Their prime interest was gathering information on his academic record as well speaking to his batch mates and friends,” an SSUET official told The Express Tribune.

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Reader Comments (54)

  • ali
    May 21, 2015 - 9:21PM


  • Minhaj Haider
    May 21, 2015 - 9:25PM

    This is unbelievable and extremely disturbing.
    I just don’t want to believe this story.Recommend

  • Aamir - Toronto
    May 21, 2015 - 10:16PM

    Unimaginable !!!!Recommend

  • Mairaj Khan
    May 21, 2015 - 10:17PM

    “IBA’s Iqra Society, known for having a soft corner for the Taliban and promoting extremist ideologies”.. seriously ET?.. Recommend

  • Ali Quaid
    May 21, 2015 - 10:18PM

    If this is true then I admit Imran Khan’s words are absolutely true. “You need to take the jihad narrative out of their minds or else we can’t win this war.”Recommend

  • May 21, 2015 - 11:01PM

    I am shocked to read this stuff, unbelievable :(Recommend

  • Is this a surprise?
    May 21, 2015 - 11:18PM

    Why is everyone in such a big shock? Go to any major university LUMS, LSE, IBA and you have a group of religious people and then there is another group of religious people who promote a different, more radicalised version of Islam. Just like educated people lie, cheat, steal and kill they also become terrorists. Unless we start identifying and speaking against such people, including our friends, we will never get rid of this cancer. Recommend

  • Haxan
    May 21, 2015 - 11:34PM

    It’s very hard to believe, I would rather wait for further investigation than drawing any conclusion on the above news. Recommend

  • May 22, 2015 - 12:27AM

    No, not hard to believe. Remember the famous quote –
    “There are snakes in Pak’s backyard”. How true. The cancer
    spread. Metastasized.Recommend

  • Zaheer
    May 22, 2015 - 12:29AM

    There are many loopholes in police claims as it says that the alleged culprits are involved in grenade attck on school if its true than what about a political party’s worker who also confessed the same some days ago, according to police version the arrested persons are also involved in attack on Bohri community mosque, attack on policemen in Aram Bagh & Preedy area and the killing of police officers in the city, if these people are involved in such crimes than why police failed to nab them before to avert Safoora carnage. Beside this the police said that they have arrested the mastermind if it is true than why police yet to failed to arrest those who killed 45 innocent Ismaili community brothers & sisters in broad daylight. Secondly but more importantly if the police claims are true than it is alarming that how extremist elements have entered our higher educational institutions and the way they are brain washing our well-educated young generation and the administration of these institutions remained unaware about the activities of these groups.Recommend

  • dada
    May 22, 2015 - 12:33AM

    Why make such a big deal of reading skills in alien tongue? Angrezi reading elite presided over genocide of 1947 on both sides of border and in Bangladesh in 1971. Education word came from Educare ie bringing forth what is within oneself or nurturing it. We all have divine love for fellow being and the natre around us besides some unique talent which helps us earn an honest living. So called education in Angrezi and in Arabi has made people rootless parasites, who hate everything native. Gujarathi Ismailis are more near to their native land culture and speak Gujarathi and are very safe target because there is not going to be retribution. Sabeen Mahmud is also a safe target for these parasite terrorists. Sabeen herself might be Anglophone rootless Pakistani but atleast she was not violent or hateful. But she is rare sample among the rootless. Pakistan as a society has become a breeding ground for parasitic terrorists.Recommend

  • Annie
    May 22, 2015 - 12:57AM

    nothing is going right over here in Pakistan :( Recommend

  • x
    May 22, 2015 - 1:26AM

    saad was also part of a magzine titled reconnection… four issues were released while during his tenure…. it was some quite explosive… and what some of you might call extemist…Recommend

  • Iqbal
    May 22, 2015 - 1:51AM

    in either cases we are loosing our youngster, our graduates generation who studies in a well renowned institutions attains good marks, good reputation, good respect and good job but what they do and who utilizes them. Ultimately it becomes prime responsibility of the educational institution to closely monitor such loathsome elements thriving and getting its roots in the university.we will have to eliminate such segments from its further mushrooming. The management will have to play its due role to save our youngster & graduates because they are our assets and future architect of the country instead to leave them on the mercy of terrorist.Recommend

  • Ch. Allah Daad
    May 22, 2015 - 1:54AM

    We know every thing but we pretend that we don’t know anything. This ignorance saves us from many problems. The best method to avoid any problem is to turn eyes away, ignore or lie. This is what friends and relatives of terrorists do when their dear ones are caught. How can anyone admit that he or she knew terrorists activities and get charged for not informing authorities. Recommend

  • Cyruss
    May 22, 2015 - 2:18AM

    Roll Number 39…A section Electronics Department 2000 Batch…Un-Beliveable!!!Recommend

  • Parvez
    May 22, 2015 - 2:24AM

    One step closer to the truth…….it’s all in the name of religion……..are they doing religion a service or are they destroying it ?Recommend

  • May 22, 2015 - 2:35AM

    This is one of the bitter truth which we have to admit that jihadi mindset is dominant in our society and is spreading like cancer.for instance if we get rid of terrorism but still the extremism mindset will take a decades for elimination as it taken two decade to spread.
    IBA student which have value in society and is considered as cream of society are involved in such acts and even no one in the family or at working place had noticed such terrorists which means that they are present around us and we are blind and cannot notice them.Recommend

  • May 22, 2015 - 3:21AM

    Unbelievable… such cases can happen when we have confuse society. when politicians supports sectarianism for vote bank only…
    pathetic… i don’t know he is criminal or innocent but govt should take action.

    on other hand, i also noticed that some part of this post are biased :)Recommend

  • mahakaalchakra
    May 22, 2015 - 3:54AM

    Here is one of the most hilarious but true tweet that I know:

    “Every Muslim should learn Arabic language and then interpret the holy Koran; then only we will be able to resolve all problems of the Islamic world.”

    ET please. No harm is intended in this tweet.Recommend

  • salman
    May 22, 2015 - 4:01AM

    Just visited cactus last week. Never noted him :sRecommend

  • mahakaalchakra
    May 22, 2015 - 4:05AM

    As long as there are works of learned Muslim scholars like Sayyid Qutb, India does not need to use RAW RAW or ZAW-ZAW with Pakistan.

    Many Indians love RAW-RAW, on the other side, many Pakistanis love WAR-WAR, opposite of RAW RAW.Recommend

  • ahmed
    May 22, 2015 - 4:42AM

    Saad Aziz is definitely a rookie, being used as an escape goat for the pressure the govt came under when Ismailies got attacked.

    Sabeen Mehmood & Bus Attack have nothing in common.

    But as far as radicalisation at IBA goes, without reading any news, just on the mention of it, I texted to my friend “look no further than Iqra society at IBA”, which is plagued with ASWJ ssp influence.

    I hope things are investigated properly and real culprits associated with the act are caught.Recommend

  • Professor
    May 22, 2015 - 5:53AM

    Sad to lose a bright child to terrorism. The ideology needs reformation. Otherwise, the same thing will happen in every family.Recommend

  • Salman - SK
    May 22, 2015 - 6:07AM

    First and foremost we need to understand that we have a most corrupt and lethargic law enforcement apparatus, from the city and provincial to the federal level. This media expose is only to deflect the attention from the recent heinous crime of 47 Ismailis in Karachi. A government and judiciary that has not resolved Benazir’s murder, Salman Taseer’s assassination, and myriad of important cases is not expected to do much effectively in this case also. Pakistan is full of religious zealots of the type described in this article, but to definitively involve them in the recent crimes is something I will take with a grain of salt. Instead of jumping on the band wagon and express the horror as the above commenters are doing we should demand a more conclusive and convincing proof from the authorities. Recommend

  • Nikki
    May 22, 2015 - 6:23AM

    I wish it is not TRUERecommend

  • Naeem Khan
    May 22, 2015 - 7:08AM

    I am not surprised, the 9/11 terrorists were also highly educated. These people may be highly educated but they are weak in mind, they are easily swayed one way or the other. The problem also lies with some of Western Countries specially the US, they have supported and still supporting the most ruthless dictators in Islamic world, they have exploited and subjugated the Muslim populations through their wealth and military support for their satraps. just look at Egypt, by over throwing an elected president Morsi by Egyptian military abetted and supported completely by US. Now the Americans are squirming when finding out the extreme measures like imposing death sentences to the opposition including Morsi taken by this so called president an Army General in Egypt. Pakistanis are bearing the brunt of terrorism because of their corrupt and incompetent leadership who has aligned themselves in the pasta with those who inflict so much pain by waging wars on others for decades. Even now the current prime minister has made deals with despotic and cruel regimes in the middle east and at the same time we are being pushed around by countries like Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and gulf States. Mind it these are the countries who can not defend themselves even with their billions petro dollars They are subservient to Western Countries but are certainly belligerent to Pakistanis because Pakistanis refused to get involve in their sectarian wars. And then we had Zia who has devastated the country by aligning itself with super power and molested the constitution by incorporating some draconian laws with the help of some turn coat politicians. The nation is reaping what these traitors sowed. Recommend

  • Nikki
    May 22, 2015 - 7:46AM


    These type of personalities get neglected by their parents, money and opportunities do not make personalities only BROUGHT UP make a good/bad human being
    Parents should giver their time to their kids or do not bring them in their WORLDRecommend

  • bhatti
    May 22, 2015 - 7:51AM

    I worked with IBA Iqra society in different capacities for 4 years. If you have any doubts about the working of that student body, We can can meet over coffee.Recommend

  • Zaheer Ahmed
    May 22, 2015 - 8:07AM

    George W Bush was a graduate from Harvard, Indira Gandhi, Bill Clinton studies at Oxford and Nehru was in Cambridge. OBL got Engineering degree from King Abdul Aziz University. All these people killed more innocent people than Saad Aziz. Should we question the role of these educational institute in character building of these murderers?Recommend

  • Zaida Parvez
    May 22, 2015 - 8:17AM

    Perhaps the answer may lie in this piece as to why most international companies hesitate to hire Muslim candidates even when they are highly qualified (not that there are too many of them around). They just cannot predict when they may move over to the other side. This is a serious image issue for all Muslims to be concerned about.Recommend

  • bajwa
    May 22, 2015 - 8:39AM

    Worldly degrees or achievements has nothing to do with the correct interpretation of any religion.Recommend

  • Bushra
    May 22, 2015 - 9:27AM

    shocking :/Recommend

  • May 22, 2015 - 9:34AM

    ET please do not act like judge and jury. Lets give a chance to these guys to prove their innocence. Let the courts decide that.Recommend

  • Mahira
    May 22, 2015 - 9:59AM

    So sad to lose young and bright boys who could’ve made their life worth while in the name of religion and done something promising for their country. Don’t know how many more such boys are being brainwashed..May Allah guide us all and the youth of Pakistan..Ameen. Recommend

  • Kolsat
    May 22, 2015 - 10:07AM

    @dada: The fault lies neither with English nor with education. it lies with what people interpret as their religion and an misguided belief with what is right. We must not be teaching our young to solve problems through debate and accept when your opinions are not accepted. Control rage and any murderous tendencies. No one seems to be doing that where troubles are continuing in the world. Just look around and you will see the truth of what I have written.Recommend

  • Usman
    May 22, 2015 - 10:21AM

    The anti Iran rhetoric points to ASWJ’s influence on Saad. Link this to Saudi funding of ASWJ and its militant wing’s Lashkar Jhangvi support for TTP and the culprits are revealed. Recommend

  • JAGO
    May 22, 2015 - 10:32AM

    Why do we blame the govt all the time instead of correcting ourselves..Firstly, we should take care of our family and friends..we are too busy to find out what our children are doing.if they are in a good company or not..It’s not that m favoring the govt but we need to understand its our primary responsibility to keep check on our kids, our surroundings to keep our society healthy…Whatever is happening in this country every citizen is responsible for that…World is laughing at us, Please WAKE UP or else it will be too late!!!

    What are we leaving for our future generations? Think about itRecommend

  • roadkashehzada
    May 22, 2015 - 10:48AM

    makes me worried about my sonRecommend

  • Hasan
    May 22, 2015 - 11:03AM

    Why educated terrorists always belong to Tablighi jamaat?, every father should stop sending his child alone with strangers for Tablighi pupose. Recommend

  • Mina
    May 22, 2015 - 11:20AM

    I’m not surprised at all. I just finished a course at IBA’s main campus. I was disturbed by the narrative of some of the professors. The mention of religion in classes that have nothing to do with it is common. They use the podium like a pulpit and to them, the place is less a university then it is a religious seminary. They think that by moralising and forcing religion down people’s throats, they’re doing society a big favor. I hope they learn from this. Recommend

  • faisal
    May 22, 2015 - 11:34AM

    very disturbing and shows the need of strengthening our education system. we need minds who are strong enough to resist the exploitation of sectarian and social class prejudices , who can question what is being preached and who can challenge the false ideals presented in front of them. instead of people who obediently follow what they read in books or what their teacher has taught.Recommend

  • Eye Opener
    May 22, 2015 - 11:37AM

    An eye opener for those employers who explicitly writes in job advertisements, only IBA LUMS graduates apply. IBA is producing corporates thugs like AXACT CEO and Terrorist like Aziz. Recommend

  • Raja Mehtab
    May 22, 2015 - 11:45AM

    unbelievable but if we look at the history,we come to know that story depicts the real image and its the deli-ma of our society.Recommend

  • layered squirrel
    May 22, 2015 - 12:26PM

    the police is trying to give an impression that these full time professional amd enterpreneur were full time terrorists which is confusing. if saad was giving all his time and efforts to his business and employees never saw anything strange in him and around him when was he doing all these planning etc. same goes for the engineer.Recommend

  • Rizwan
    May 22, 2015 - 12:36PM

    He stopped talking to girls, began
    bunking classes and grew his beard

    Are you kidding? this is how you see people growing beard?Recommend

  • Zuhair
    May 22, 2015 - 12:48PM

    Why do so many people here do not want and wish to believe it is true? Why? Because he was a modern educated guy from one of the big business schools? Is that where our stereotyping of terrorists has taken us to. Recommend

  • May 22, 2015 - 12:56PM

    In a society where a 13 years old get hand cuffed for flying a kite and even gets beaten by the “Police” whereas a money launderer model cat walks, enjoys lavish facilities inside the jail and goes to beauty parlor before making it to the court. What do you expect? What do you think where all the frustration would go? Yes Our Society is a producing fertile minds to be sown with seeds of hatred and terrorism. Give us Laptops, Give us Metros and Cabs. But please do not give us Peace, Please do not revamp the dark judicial system and barbaric police system. Please do not educate us. Yes we need Bullet Trains. Recommend

  • AYK
    May 22, 2015 - 2:18PM

    that’s why we should properly guide our children, especially the youth, regarding the true teachings of Islam so they may not became a tool for such extremist activities. Recommend

  • asif
    May 22, 2015 - 6:24PM

    The remaining seven should also be thoroughly investigatedRecommend

  • Shabbir
    May 22, 2015 - 8:01PM

    If we note anything suspicious we have no place to report it. If you go to the police they will harass you for the sake of their bribe more than investigating your suspicion. Otherwise in a society like ours where we don’t mind our own business it’s simply not possible not to get information. The terror is the sheer fault of the corruption of the state actors in greater gravity than the ones from non state actors.Recommend

  • goggi (Lahore)
    May 22, 2015 - 8:38PM

    The root causes of such destructive, violent and inhuman outbursts are indoctrinated very deep inside each of us……..right from the very first breath of our life!

    The Sunni parents like mines recite Azaan in our ears and the Shia mother lays the hand of her fresh-born baby on its chest…………..rest what has followed is a hatred-filled society in which everyone is fighting everyone!

    Killing humans in our society is as conscienceless as cruelly slaughtering an innocent animal. If you cannot feel the pain of a cruel slaughtered animal then you are really not capable of inquiring the divinity of humanity which is above all man-made flopped religions.Recommend

  • jalal
    May 22, 2015 - 10:37PM

    Our law and enforcement agencies are so vagile and quick so what is the reason they dont stop such attack preemptlyRecommend

  • Ayesha
    May 23, 2015 - 2:14AM

    Have no words…Recommend

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