American doctor from minority Ahmadi sect shot dead in Pakistan

An American doctor of Pakistani origin was shot dead in central Pakistan by unidentified gunmen on Monday, police said, in an attack that appears to have targeted him because he was a member of the minority Ahmadiyya religious community.

Mehdi Ali Qamar, 50, from Lancaster, Ohio, had traveled to Pakistan’s Punjab Province late last week to volunteer at the Tahir Heart Institute, one of Pakistan’s most highly regarded medical clinics. At around 5 a.m. he was walking out of a cemetery with family members in the town of Rabwah in the Punjab province when two gunmen on motorcycles shot him 11 times, police official Tariq Warraich said. A murder case has been registered against the two unnamed attackers.

“We are investigating but have no suspects at the moment,” Mr. Warraich said.

A photograph of Qamar lying on the ground in a blood-soaked shirt was posted on Twitter, and it made him the latest symbol of the persecution facing members of the Ahmadi sect in Pakistan. Friends and relatives said Qamar, 50, grew up in Pakistan but moved to the United States more than a decade ago to pursue his medical career.

The US embassy in Islamabad confirmed the attack and the identity of the victim. Meghan Gregonis, a US embassy spokeswoman in a statement said;

“We express our deepest condolences to his family and friends. The  US Embassy is providing consular assistance.  Out of respect for Dr. Qamar’s family during this difficult time, we have no further information to share”

Shantanu Sinha, a cardiologist in Lancaster who worked with Dr. Qamar for the past 10 years, described him as a person who gave generously to his local community in Ohio. Dr. Qamar worked at a vein-care center called Vanishing Veins Ohio and at a cardiology office known as CardioVascular Specialists near the local hospital.

“He was one of the most honest, ethical and not-a-bad-bone-in-his-body kind of person,” said Dr. Sinha, adding that Dr. Qamar returned to Pakistan to provide free cardiac care. “He was very giving.”

Ali’s killing follows the fatal shooting of a 65-year-old Ahmedi man last week. A teenage gunman killed Khalil Ahmad in police custody after the grandfather was arrested on blasphemy charges

“It is a major crime against humanity that a doctor who came a few days back to serve his country has been killed,” said Saleemuddin, a spokesman for Jamaat-e-Ahmadiyya, the group that represents Pakistan’s Ahmadi population.

Qamar was a founding physician member of the Gordon B. Snider Cardiovascular Institute at Fairfield Medical Center  in 2011 and was honored as a Legendary Philanthropist by the medical center in 2013.

In Pakistan, the Ahmadiyya faith is outlawed. Ahmadis here are not allowed to call themselves Muslims and are not eligible to vote. In recent years, hardline Sunni clerics have fanned even more prejudice against Ahmadis, leading to growing concerns about their safety.