The United States urged Pakistan on Thursday to act over the killing of an American national in a crowded courtroom in Peshawar as he faced trial for blasphemy.
57-year-old Tahir Ahmad Naseem was shot multiple times at close range on Wednesday when he was seated in the court of an additional sessions judge after arguments in his case, awaiting to be shifted to prison.
“We extend our condolences to the family of Tahir Naseem, the American citizen who was killed today inside a courtroom in Pakistan,” the US State Department said in a tweet. “We urge Pakistan to take immediate action and pursue reforms that will prevent such a shameful tragedy from happening again.”
Witnesses and officials reported a young man pulling out a handgun and shooting Naseem in the head just as has arraignment before the judge began. The shooter, a 19-year-old male, was arrested on the spot and the pistol used in the offence was seized.
The incident was followed with a social media outrage when a video of the deceased lying on a court bench with a pool of blood underneath went viral. The video also showed the suspected shooter police custody, claiming that the deceased was a blasphemer.
Police were interrogating the suspect to determine how he carried a pistol into the highly guarded Peshawar Judicial Complex and whether anyone had motivated him into committing the murder.
A first information report (FIR) was registered against him at the East Cantt Police Station under Section 302 of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC), Section 7 of the Anti-Terrorism Act and Section 15 of the Arms Act.
The deceased had lately filed an application in the court, requesting to be allowed to recite Kalima Tayyaba in the court to show that he was a Muslim and did not belong to the Ahmadi community. After hearing the arguments from the prosecution and defence, Judge Syed Shaukatullah Shah had adjourned the hearing until October 12.
Reportedly, the deceased had been residing in the US with his family and visited Pakistan two years ago after he got in touch with some people on social media who asked him to return to his country to spread his faith.
The case against Naseem was registered at the Sarband Police Station on April 25, 2018, under Sections 153-A (promoting enmity between different groups), 295-A (acts intended to outrage religious feelings of any class), 295-B (defiling Holy Quran), 295-C (derogatory remarks in respect of Holy Prophet (PBUH)) and 298 (uttering words to wound religious feelings) of the PPC.
The complainant, in that case, was a student of a religious seminary in Islamabad, Malik Owais.
Naseem was indicted on February 4, 2019, under sections 153-A, 295-A and 298 of the PPC, whereas the charge sheet did not include Sections 295-B and 295-C.
The deceased had denied all charges and decided to stand trial.