Athar Ali (scientist)

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Atahar Ali
Born 20 August 1963
Muzaffargarh, Muzaffargarh District, West Pakistan, Pakistan
Died 4 October 2003(2003-10-04) (aged 40)
Hub River Road, Karachi, Sindh
Residence Karachi, Sindh province
Citizenship Pakistan
Nationality Pakistani
Fields System Engineering
Institutions Space and Upper Atmosphere Research Commission (SUPARCO)
Alma mater NED University of Engineering and Technology
Doctoral advisor Dr. Ehtasam Hussain Shah
Known for Pakistani missile and space program
Notable awards Hilal-i-Imtiaz (2004)

Dr. Athar Ali (20 August 1963 – 4 October 2003), was a Pakistani system engineer and a rocket scientist who was murdered in Karachi on 4 October 2003. He was an expert in missile technology and was the senior scientist at the Space and Upper Atmosphere Research Commission (SUPARCO) during the time of the development of Shaheen missile guidance system. SUPARCO is a Pakistani governmental agency. His death led the mass demonstration in a Shiite community in Karachi.


A graduate of NED University of Engineering and Technology, Ali received his doctorate (PhD) in system engineering from the same institute. His doctoral studies were funded by the SUPARCO in the 1980s. He associated with SUPARCO during his master's studies in system engineering. He played an important and central role in the Pakistani space program.

SUPARCO career[edit]

Having joined SUPARCO in 1985, Ali was associated with the rocket's electrical and electronics system. Thereafter, he specialised in missile technology while the Hatf missile system was being developing. At the SUPARCO, Ali was one of the senior scientists involved in the indigenous development of the Shaheen guidended missile systems, and was responsible for the program's electrical and system power engineering at the SUPARCO.[1] In 2002, due to his contribution to the agency, he was promoted as the deputy-director of the commission.

Assassination and culprits[edit]

In the afternoon of 4 October 2003, Ali along with 35 members of SUPARCO were on the way to SUPARCO Headquarters. At the 12:45 pm, the SUPARCO bus dropped some people at a nearby mosque and then proceeded towards an Imambargah near the Baba Wilayat Shah shrine to drop the remaining persons to the designated check post. As the bus reached the junction of a link road and the Hub river road, three unidentified armed men on a motorcycle intercepted the bus and opened fire.[2]

This drive-by-shooting lasting just a few minutes, left five dead and eight others wounded including officials of the Pakistan Army who were on guard duty at the facility. The bodies of the victims were taken to the Murshid Hospital where they were pronounced as dead. Later, the dead bodies were shifted the bodies to the Rizvia Imambargah.[3]


The Karachi city authorities termed the incident a sectarian killing and the team of special agents of FIA had been initiated. The Law enforcement agencies and the Karachi Police refused to speculate as to whether the killings were motivated by any particular incident. However, the police suspected the banned Lashkar-i-Jhangvi behind the killings.[4]

According to the Online news of Pakistan, the Indian external agency, Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) has been behind the attacks. The source also concluded that RAW hired activists of Quetta-based Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA) outlawed outfit for this incidence of terrorism and real target was Athar Ali who was, in the past, was targeted twice but he was able to manage an escape from the scene.[5] The following day of the killings, the FIA had arrested the RAW agent and few other members of BLA. However, Indian Government has denied the allegations and its agency's involvement in the assassinations.[6]


Athar Ali's death brought mass demonstration in the shiite community in Pakistan. The shiite religious parties condemned the death of Dr. Ali, and accused the Government of Pakistan in the death. The non-profit organisation, Imamia Students Organisation (ISO), Anjuman Tahaffuz Azadari (ATA), and Tehrik-i-Islami (TI) activists on Saturday staged a demonstration to condemn the killings in Karachi. After the mass demonstration in Karachi, the FIA's special agents arrested the culprits and masterminds of the killings.[7] All of the members were closely associated with the Sipah-e-Sahab and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi. The associated members were hanged and executed by the Government of Pakistan.[8]


Dr. Athar Ali was a noted scientist and missile technologist who had contributed in the nation's space program. As a missile expert, he had a rich contribution in the field of rocket science. His assassination brought a nationwide protests and demonstrations. Following his death, Dr. Ali was awarded Hilal-i-Imtiaz by the President of Pakistan. After his death, the Pakistani government learned a valuable lesson and has increased the security of its scientists and engineers who closely were working in the country's confidential programs.


  1. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 3 May 2014. Retrieved 2016-07-07. 
  2. ^ Our Staff Reporter (4 October 2003), "Six Suparco employees shot dead in city", Dawn News 
  3. ^ Sameer, Nida (4 October 2003). "SUPARCO Scientists targeted and shot dead". GEO News. 
  4. ^
  5. ^ Unknown (2003). "RAW behind SUPARCO bus killings". Online News. Online News of Pakistan. Archived from the original on 3 May 2014. Retrieved 2010.  Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
  6. ^ The Staff Reporter (2003), "Culprits of SUPARCO Bus attack", Ummat Newspaper (in Urdu) 
  7. ^ "Coffin of SUPARCO deputy director arrived". PPI – Pakistan Press International. (in English and Urdu). 
  8. ^

Further references[edit]

  • Khan, Kamran (2003), "Shia-Sunni violence in Karachi", Aaj Kamran Khan Kay Saath