Pakistani student kills school principal over alleged blasphemy
by Kamran Chaudhry

Sareer Ahmed was killed by a student on Monday. The latter had been marked as "absent" after taking part in protests by Islamic radicals in Islamabad. "People are seeking refuge in religion to escape economic woes but sadly they are being radicalised".

Lahore (AsiaNews) – A student killed a college principal after accusing him of blasphemy.

Last Monday, Faheem Ashraf, a grade 12 student, gunned down Sareer Ahmed, principal of the New Islamia Public High School and College in Shabqadar, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

According to media reports, the murderer was furious with the school administration for marking him down as absent during anti-government demonstrations in Islamabad, which blocked the capital for weeks last November.

The protests were organised by Tehreek-i-Labaik Ya Rasool Allah, which is led by Imam Khadim Hussain Rizvi, to demand the resignation of the Minister of Justice, “guilty" in their eyes of approving a law that failed to impose on lawmakers the oath of allegiance to the Prophet Muhammad when they take office.

During the protests, extremists from Tehreek-i-Labaik also defended the blasphemy law and expressed their support for the death penalty against those guilty of denigrating Islam.

Speaking to AsiaNews, some Catholic academics condemned the murder. "This is astonishing. The allegation of blasphemy can be used to kill even a family member or one's own religious leaders,” said Sabir Michael, assistant professor in the Department of Social Work at the University of Karachi.

"State departments,” he added, have “infected our society with religious conflict for forty years (a reference to the Islamisation policy of President General Zia ul-Haq) to please certain groups and achieve short term objectives. We are now witnessing its negative forms; there is a mountain of despair."

Speaking on video posted on social media, the young assassin said, "I have been taught don't be afraid of anyone in Allah's matter. I did it myself and accept [responsibility for] the murder".

In Shabqadar, other students reacted to the incident by blocking city streets demanding harsh punishment for the killer.

According to Michael, now people realise the effects of the controversial blasphemy law.

"The government formed a national action plan to fight back against the militants in 2015 but sadly they only focused on the war on terror,” said Anjum James Paul, chairman of the Pakistan Minorities Teachers' Association.

Paul, who is assistant professor of political science at the Government Post Graduate College in Faisalabad, has been documenting hate-based material in textbooks of Pakistan since 2005.

“In his hate speeches,” explained Paul, who is a lay Dominican, the head of Tehreek-i-Labaik Ya Rasool Allah “Khadim Hussain Rizvi openly attacks politicians but there has been no action against the cleric. Such people enjoy the blessing of the state.”

They also benefit from the fact that “People seek refuge in religion to escape economic woes but sadly they are being radicalised".

Last Monday, his group filed a complaint before the Sindh High Court against hate content in school books.

In his view, “Both formal education institutes and madrassas (Islamic seminaries) are teaching racism and hate. Condemnation of such incidents will not solve anything”.

In fact, "We have to be careful while taking attendance, maintaining discipline on college campus and especially while delivering lectures. The slain Sareer Ahmed is a martyr," he added.