Attacker claims he was ‘defending Islam’ from the victim’s blasphemous statements
A man in Peshawar was shot dead on Wednesday while appearing in a sessions court over blasphemy allegations.
Tahir Ahmed Naseem, a resident of Pishtakhara and a former member of the Ahmadi minority, was in court before Judge Shaukatullah when a man barged in and opened fire on him. According to eyewitnesses, Naseem was shot six times and died on the spot.
In a posting on Twitter, the U.S. State Department Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs confirmed that Naseem had been a U.S. citizen. “We extend our condolences to the family of Tahir Naseem, the American citizen who was killed today inside a courtroom in Pakistan,” it said. “We urge Pakistan to take immediate action and pursue reforms that will prevent such a shameful tragedy from happening again.”
The shooter, local man Khalid, has been taken into custody, say police. They said that the culprit has admitted he murdered Naseem because he heard the latter claiming he was a prophet. A former madrassa student, Khalid claimed he was “defending Islam” by killing Naseem.
Local activists said victim Naseem had been accused of blasphemy under Section 295 (defiling a place of worship) of the Pakistan Penal Code. They said he had been facing these charge for two years and claimed he had suffered from a mental disability and was not fully aware of the implications of his words.
Between 1987 and 2017 at least 1,500 people were charged with blasphemy in Pakistan—with at least 75 killed due to such allegations. The murdered victims include people accused of blasphemy; their lawyers; their family members; and judges hearing the cases.
Critics of the blasphemy law have long maintained that the legislation is largely used to persecute religious minorities and settle personal vendettas and have called for reforms. However, all efforts to amend the law have been met with stiff resistance from the religious right, who claim it is essential to “protect Islam.”