Hakimullah Mehsud faction, a splinter group of the Taliban, has claimed responsibility for the murder. The outfit’s spokesperson Qari Saifullah Mehsud said it killed Sabri because he was a “blasphemer.”
In 2014, the Islamabad Hight Court had issued a notice in a blasphemy case to two private TV channels for playing a qawwali during a morning show. The show had mixed a mock wedding with a qawwali sung by Sabri related to religious figures, and was considered offensive.
Additional police surgeon Dr Rohina Hasan confirmed Sabri’s death. He was shot thrice – twice in the head and once on the ear.
“Two riders used 30-bore pistols to shoot Sabri five times, the bullet to the head took the qawwal’s life,” a senior police official said.
Sabri was apparently heading for the studio of a private television channel when he was attacked.
Police officials recovered five 30-bore casings from the scene of the attack, which have been sent for forensics.
Asghari Begum, Amjad Sabri’s mother told Al Jazeera, that about six months ago three unknown assailants came to their residence and had burst open the front door. Amjad was not present, and they had left.
Sabri and his late father, Ghulam Farid Sabri, were well-known qawwali singers – a style of music rooted in Sufism, or Islamic mysticism – that is popular across South Asia with roots tracing back to the 13th century.
Sufi mosques and shrines have come under attack in recent years, including the 2010 bombing of the Data Darbar shrine in Lahore that killed more than 40 people.
Sabri was one of Pakistan’s finest qawwals, known for his soul-stirring renditions of mystic poetry.
Some of the most memorable and famous qawwalis of the Sabris were ‘Bhar Do Jholi Meri’, ‘Tajdar-i-Haram’ and ‘Mera Koi Nahin Hai Teray Siwa’.
Sabri, who travelled widely to Europe and the US for his concerts, was known as the “rockstar” of Qawali due to his modern style of rendition.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has condemned the attack and has directed authorities to bring the perpetrators to justice.
Fakhre Alam, the Chairman of the Sindh Board of Film Censors, claimed on Twitter that Sabri had earlier submitted an application for security, but the home department refused to follow up on it.