US asks Pak to reform its blasphemy laws after citizen shot dead in courtroom

New Delhi (NVI): The US has expressed shock over the killing of an American citizen inside a courtroom in Pakistan and has asked Islamabad to “immediately reform its often abused blasphemy laws and its court system, which allow such abuses to occur.”

Tahir Naseem (47), who had been facing trial for blasphemy since 2018, was shot dead by a man who managed to enter the Peshawar court despite high security on Wednesday.
The man, who shot Naseem six times in the middle of the proceedings, was later arrested. The US has also demanded strict action against the killer.

“We are shocked, saddened, and outraged that American citizen Tahir Naseem was killed yesterday inside a Pakistani courtroom. Mr. Naseem had been lured to Pakistan from his home in Illinois by individuals who then used Pakistan’s blasphemy laws to entrap him,” said Cale Brown, Deputy Spokesperson, US State Department said in a release yesterday.

The spokesperson said that the US government has been providing consular assistance to Naseem and his family since his detention in 2018.

The US government has called the attention of senior Pakistani officials to Naseem’s case to prevent the type of shameful tragedy that “eventually occurred”.

“We grieve with the family of Mr. Naseem. We urge Pakistan to immediately reform its often abused blasphemy laws and its court system, which allow such abuses to occur, and to ensure that the suspect is prosecuted to the full extent of the law,” Brown added.

The US State Department has urged Pakistan to pursue reforms to prevent such a “shameful tragedy” from happening again.

“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,” read a tweet by the department.

Naseem belonged to the minority Ahmadia community in Pakistan. A Madrasa student in Pakistan- Awais Malik accused Naseem of blasphemy as the latter had claimed to be a prophet, according to Malik. They later met in Pakistan and discussed their views on religion, following which Malik filed the blasphemy case and Naseem was arrested.

Persons belonging to other minority communities in Pakistan like Sikh, Hindus and Christians have also been a victim of the barbaric blasphemy law in the country. If a person is charged under the law, he/she is sentenced to death in most cases.