American Accused of Blasphemy Is Killed in Pakistan Courtroom

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The USA urged Pakistan on Thursday to overtake the nation’s harsh blasphemy legal guidelines a day after an American citizen accused of violating them was fatally shot in a courtroom.

The brazen killing has introduced into sharp focus Pakistan’s much-maligned blasphemy legal guidelines, which critics say are sometimes used to persecute and intimidate members of spiritual minorities.

The American, Tahir Ahmad Naseem, 57, was on trial within the northwestern Pakistani metropolis of Peshawar on expenses that he had claimed to be a prophet. Mr. Naseem was shot six instances on Wednesday by a younger man whom the authorities recognized solely as Faisal, 19, an area resident.

The killing, in a courtroom on the Peshawar Judicial Complicated, drew sturdy condemnation from the U.S. authorities.

“We lengthen our condolences to the household of Tahir Naseem, the American citizen who was killed right this moment inside a courtroom in Pakistan,” the State Division’s Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs stated in a Twitter put up on Thursday. “We urge Pakistan to take rapid motion and pursue reforms that can stop such a shameful tragedy from occurring once more.”

Mr. Naseem was accused of blasphemy in 2018 on expenses that carried penalties starting from fines to demise.

He had been a member of the Ahmadi sect, which has been declared heretical underneath the Pakistani Structure and whose members face repeated persecution. Nonetheless, representatives stated Mr. Naseem had left the sect and had claimed to be the messiah and a prophet.

Blasphemy is a extremely flamable and delicate topic in Pakistan, with feelings flaring over mere rumors that Islam has been insulted. The federal government has by no means executed anybody underneath blasphemy legal guidelines, however folks accused of it are sometimes killed by mobs even earlier than the police can take motion, rights teams say.

Quickly after the killing of Mr. Naseem, a video of the gunman was extensively shared on social media. It confirmed him sitting on a courtroom bench whereas being held by law enforcement officials, and he’s heard saying the Prophet Muhammad informed him in a dream to kill Mr. Naseem.

“He’s an enemy of Islam,” the gunman is heard saying of Mr. Naseem. “He’s an enemy of Pakistan.”

Police officers stated they had been investigating how the attacker managed to carry a gun contained in the high-security courtroom compound.

Rights activists and rights teams have lengthy campaigned in opposition to the blasphemy legal guidelines, saying they’re used to oppress non secular minorities and to settle private feuds.

However hard-line Islamic non secular events have bitterly opposed strikes to amend the legal guidelines. Mainstream political leaders acknowledge the misuse of the blasphemy legal guidelines, however have principally caved in to the pressures by non secular events to not change them and have dithered in taking a public stand in opposition to them.

In 2011, Salmaan Taseer, a distinguished politician who was then the governor of Punjab Province, had campaigned to alter the blasphemy legal guidelines, however was fatally shot by his police guard.

Mr. Taseer had been campaigning for the discharge of Asia Bibi, a Pakistani Christian girl who was sentenced to demise and imprisoned for eight years after being accused of blasphemy. The Supreme Courtroom overturned her conviction in 2018, and she or he now lives in Canada.

The killing of Mr. Taseer was a chilling reminder of the hazards that outspoken secular politicians face in a deeply conservative and spiritual Pakistani society.

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