VAUGHAN, Ontario (AP) — A North American cardiologist shot dead in Pakistan in front of his wife and two-year-old son was remembered Wednesday as a selfless humanitarian who was murdered because of his faith.
A burial ceremony for Dr. Mehdi Ali Qamar saw impassioned calls for Canada to pressure Pakistan to better protect religious minorities against extremism. Qamar, 51, was originally from Pakistan and belonged to the minority Ahmadiyya Muslim sect, also known as Ahmadis. He was a dual American and Canadian citizen who had lived in Ohio for the last decade.
Qamar, who had returned to Pakistan to volunteer at a hospital, was gunned down May 26 in the central town of Chanab Nagar as he and his family left a cemetery after visiting relatives' graves. Qamar's open casket was draped in both Canadian and American flags as a ring of mourners wearing traditional black-and-white scarves stood silently around it.
His nephew, Nasir Chaudhary, read a family statement calling Qamar a "real servant of humanity who never discriminated against his patients. "
"He possessed a strong sense of service to humanity. His compassion knew no bounds," Chaudhary said.
"The only comfort we find in his passing is that he gave his life doing something he loved: helping others."
While in Pakistan Qamar had planned to treat patients at the Tahir Heart Institute.
Speakers mourned Qamar not only for the loss of his life, but as what they see as another sectarian killing of members of their religious group. Ahmadis have long been the target of Islamic extremists in Pakistan.
Ahmadis follow the self-proclaimed prophet Ghulam Ahmad, born in 1835 in Punjab, India, and consider themselves Muslims, but are forbidden from presenting themselves as such by Pakistan's blasphemy law. Ahmadis are banned from "posing as Muslims," declaring their faith publicly, calling their places of worship mosques or performing the Muslim call to prayer.
"Dr. Mehdi Ali Qamar was murdered because of his faith," said Lal Khan Malik, president Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama'at Canada, a group representing Ahmadis.
He said Qamar's death was the "direct result of the state-sponsored extremism that is practiced in Pakistan," and called on the Canadian government to pressure the South Asian country to end what he called the persecution of Ahmadis.
Federal, provincial and local politicians were in attendance, as were officials from the U.S. consulate in Toronto along with friends and family stateside.
Qamar's wife and son were not harmed in the shooting. He is survived by two other sons.
Last month a member of the Ahmadi sect accused of blasphemy was shot dead by a gunman who walked into a police station where he was being held.