ISLAMABAD – Pakistan's top Taliban hunter, a controversial police officer who survived several previous assassination attempts, was killed by a Taliban car bomb in the southern city of Karachi on Thursday, police said.
Superintendent Chaudhry Aslam, dubbed “Pakistan’s toughest cop” was well known throughout the country for his aggressive pursuit of criminals and Islamic militants alike.
Aslam was killed, along with three other police officers, when a car packed with explosives rammed into his vehicle.
Pakistan’s Taliban hailed his death as a “huge victory,” but there was a massive outcry across the country at the news. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif condemned the attack and vowed to investigate.
Aslam had dodged many attempts on his life before – in 2011 the militant group rammed another huge car bomb into his house that killed eight, but left him and his family alive.
"I will not be cowed. I will teach a lesson to generations of militants," Aslam said at the time, according to Reuters. He added that he had already survived eight other attempts on his life.
Due to his reputation, he definitely had a target on his back.
“He was the name and face of the Karachi police,” said Aslam’s boss, Iqbal Mahmood, assistant inspector general for the Karachi police who had worked with Aslam since the 1990s.
“He was one of the bravest officers that I had,” said Mahmood. “He was always out there, in the forefront, on the field, would never budge an edge, and never back out. He didn’t just take orders. He made them his own.
“There was no tracking of the threats he received, they were so many,” Mahmood added. “But he had one line for everyone: ‘Come out and meet me, in the open.’”
Karachi’s top cop, Inspector General Sindh Shahid Nadeem Baloch, agreed.
“Guys like Aslam are constant targets, and have nothing to do with the patterns of violence…Frankly, everyone knew him. He was a well-known target for the obvious reasons.”
The Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) quickly took credit for his killing.
“This man had caused us heavy losses. He had killed and tortured several of our people in Karachi. It’s a huge success for our fighters across the country,” said Sajjad Mohmand, a TTP spokesman.
Mohmand said the Taliban militants were aware of the security measures Aslam had taken for his protection and had specifically trained a suicide bomber for the attack. He also said that with Aslam gone, the Taliban would now easily target other police and security officials who had inflicted losses on them in the past.
Another militant in the Swat Valley, a major Taliban stronghold, spoke on the condition of anonymity about how Aslam had made himself a target because he was so good at restricting the militants' movements.
“He had narrowed the land in Karachi for the militants. They were restricted to their hideouts and avoided mobile phones. The moment they talked on mobile phones, Chaudhry Aslam would have raided the place.”
Even though the Pakistani Taliban took credit for the killing, others questioned who was responsible, since Aslam had made so many enemies.
“It’s difficult to answer who killed him. He had picked a fight with every, literally every faction of the TTP out there. And not just them…He was probably on the top of every hit list,” said a high ranking military intelligence source on condition of anonymity.
Some human rights advocates, as well as the Taliban, accused Aslam of extra-judicial executions.
“Yes, he had a mixed reputation, and he was a tough man with tough methods. Yes, he had some of the routine ills that a police officer picked up," said the high ranking military intelligence source. “But at the end of the day, he has been on the forefront by taking on TTP and every other banned organization in this city, and very bravely. His death is the proof of his effectiveness.”
NBC's Mushtaq Yusufazi and Reuters contributed to this report.