Pakistan has one of the worst blasphemy laws of any country around the world. These laws have been used for decades to persecute and intimidate religious minorities and have provided the sanction for vigilantes and radical groups to kill any of these accused.
On Wednesday July 30, a Pakistani-American, accused of blasphemy charges, was fatally shot in a courtroom. Tahir Ahmad Naseem, 57, was on trial in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar primarily because he was an Ahmadi, a Muslim sect that in 1974 was declared non-Muslim by the state and constitution of Pakistan.
Mr. Naseem was shot six times on Wednesday by a young man whom the authorities identified only as Faisal, 19, a local resident. According to news stories “Mr. Naseem was accused of blasphemy in 2018 on charges that carried penalties ranging from fines to death. He had been a member of the Ahmadi sect, which has been declared heretical under the Pakistani Constitution and whose members face repeated persecution. Blasphemy is a highly combustible and sensitive subject in Pakistan, with emotions flaring over mere rumors that Islam has been insulted. The government has never executed anyone under blasphemy laws, but people accused of it are often killed by mobs even before the police can take action, rights groups say.”
Soon after the killing of Mr. Naseem, “a video of the gunman was widely shared on social media. It showed him sitting on a courtroom bench while being held by police officers, and he is heard saying the Prophet Muhammad told him in a dream to kill Mr. Naseem. “He is an enemy of Islam,” the gunman is heard saying of Mr. Naseem. “He is an enemy of Pakistan.” Police officials said they were investigating how the attacker managed to bring a gun inside the high-security court compound.”
The Parliamentary leader of the ruling Pakistan Tehrik Insaf (PTI) in Sindh, Haleem Adil Shaikh, was among those who celebrated the killing. Shaikh put the picture of the killer as his twitter display picture and praised him for his love of the Prophet on his facebook page. He deleted it only after protests by others who saw it as official endorsement of murder.
The killing, in a courtroom at the Peshawar Judicial Complex, drew strong condemnation from the U.S. government. In a tweet State Department’s Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs said “We extend our condolences to the family of Tahir Naseem, the American citizen who was killed today inside a courtroom in Pakistan. We urge Pakistan to take immediate action and pursue reforms that will prevent such a shameful tragedy from happening again.”
Many Pakistanis took to twitter to condemn the occurrence