A top Pakistani policeman renowned for his tough stance on criminals and Islamist militants was killed by a Taliban car bomb in the volatile southern city of Karachi Thursday, police said.
The Taliban described Superintendent Chaudhry Aslam’s death as a “huge victory”. PM Nawaz Sharif condemned the bombing.
Three other officers were killed alongside Aslam, said senior police officer Raja Umar Khattab, after a car packed with explosives rammed his vehicle.
Chain-smoking Aslam, dubbed “Pakistan’s toughest cop” by local media and a celebrated figure in a nation where citizens decry authorities’ failure to crack down on criminals and militants, has been targeted by Taliban before.
A 2011 profile of Aslam in the Guardian, published a couple of months after a Taliban suicide bomber rammed an explosives laden van into his house, killing eight, described the officer as the “Karachi version of Dirty Harry”. The article recalled that Aslam had then pointed to the two-metre-deep bomb crater and vowed to launch his own “jihad” against the Taliban. “I will bury the attackers right here,” the article quoted him as having said. “I didn’t know the terrorists were such cowards. Why don’t they attack me in the open?”
The Guardian profile noted that Aslam had until then survived eight attempts on his life. Eerily, the article, by Declan Walsh, the London daily’s then correspondent in Islamabad, started with the sentence, “If the lucky really have nine lives, then Chaudhry Aslam Khan, Karachi’s toughest policeman, is fast running out of his.”
And ended with a quote from Aslam : “I will fight till the last drop of my blood… When these people are killing children, I think it is right for us to kill them. They shouldn’t even be called Muslims.” Karachi police chief Shahid Hayat praised Aslam’s courage, adding: “We have given hundreds of lives in the line of duty to save this city.”
Police regularly pick up a dozen bodies a day in Karachi, home to 18 million people and one of the world’s most violent cities. Around 200 police officers were killed there in 2013. In recent years, the Taliban has expanded its influence in the city, especially in areas dominated by ethnic Pashtuns fleeing fighting along the Afghan-Pakistan border.
“We were working for a long time to eliminate him as he killed and tortured many of our people in Karachi,” said Taliban spokesman Sajjad Mohmand from Mohmand Agency in the tribal areas. “We trained this (suicide bomber) especially to eliminate him. It’s a huge success for our people.” He said the Taliban would continue to target other officers on a hit list.