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Pakistani community leader shot dead in Vancouver

January 09, 2003 19:16 IST

Riasat Ali Khan, prominent leader of the Pakistani-Canadian community in Vancouver in Canada, was shot dead on Sunday, January 5.

Khan, 69, was reportedly shot several times as he was getting out of his car in his driveway in suburban Surrey, near Vancouver.

Police have rejected suggestions from the Canadian Muslim Congress that this could be the case of a hate crime.

Tim Shields, spokesman of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, said, "At this stage in the investigation, it would be irresponsible to even suggest this homicide could be a hate crime because it only tends to foster fear in the community."

He added, "There is absolutely no evidence that would support that theory. There are a lot of allegations, theories, rumors, and speculation going around right now. But even the investigators don't have a firm motive for this homicide."

Khan was born in India, but the family shifted to Pakistan after independence and he migrated to Canada in 1959, working in the correctional services.

Police are asking the local Pakistani community to pitch in with any leads that could help them in their investigation. So far they are clueless as to why this prominent community leader was killed.

He is not known to have any enemies or received any kind of threats, his family members and other Muslim community leaders have said.

Surrey RCMP have two teams investigating on the case, but so far have not found any motive for the murder, Shields said.

Indo-Canadian Federal Minister for Natural Resources Herb Dhaliwal, who claims to have known Khan for over 20 years, is distraught at his killing.

Dhaliwal wouldn't comment on the hate crime issue saying it is for the local police to investigate. He said, "[Khan] was a good soldier. He very much supported liberal values."

Khan had met Dhaliwal three weeks back to talk about various matters, including an immigration case he was concerned about, and also to encourage Dhaliwal to run for the leadership of the Federal Liberal Party.

Meanwhile, Khan's family has announced an award of $50,000 to anyone who can provide some information leading to the arrest of the killer.

Khan's 45-year old son, Fazal Khan, who took over the family-run insurance business, said he could not think of anyone who would want to kill his father.

Khan was very actively involved in politics and community activities which preceded everything else, Fazal said. "He went to everything --- fundraisers, marriages, deaths, births --- he was involved in so many associations and societies."

Dave Hayer, Liberal Member of the British Columbia Legislature, whose father Tara Singh Hayer, was murdered in a similar fashion in November 1998, said, "He [Khan] would always show up at events to show his support. You could count on him. He was interested in all three levels of politics, municipal, provincial and federal. He thought it was important. He never cared about color, and would support candidates regardless of their race."

Hayer added, "I have talked with his family. We are at a loss to explain what could be the motive for this [killing]. He was a well-liked man. I don't see how he had any enemies. He was a gentleman. Why would people do this? None of us can believe this happened. We are all in shock."

Shields said they are also examining the possibility of this murder being linked to the still-unsolved murder of Tara Singh Hayer, who was also killed in Surrey.

Khan was known to be a bridge between Indian and Pakistani communities, Harinder Mahil, former human rights commissioner of British Columbia, said.

To his credit, Khan was also primarily instrumental in establishing the first mosque in Western Canada.

Ajit Jain in Toronto