A 17-year-old student has been arrested in Pakistan for murdering his school principal after accusing him of blasphemy.
The principal, Sareer Ahmed of Islamia College, a private school in Pakistan, challenged a pupil over three days of absences last year. The pupil told him he was attending a sit-in protest in favor of blasphemy law. The protests, which brought the capital Islamabad to a standstill, were organized by the Islamist political party Tehreek-e-Labaik. The rallies were to oppose a small change in electoral law which hardliners said was tantamount to blasphemy. During the protests police clashed with Islamists. Seven people were killed and over 200 injured before the government backed down and a minister accused of blasphemy resigned.
Ahmed did not accept the student’s explanation for absences and marked him absent for those days. In response, the boy accused the principal of blasphemy for not letting him get away with going to the rally. He shot and killed the principal on campus.
“I committed this murder and I accepted it. It was ordered by God,” the teenager was reported as saying as he was arrested.
Ahmed has been buried in Charsadda. Private schools in the town were closed for three days of mourning. Ahmed was a practicing Muslim with a Masters in Islamic Studies from Peshawar University who had memorized the Quran, according to relatives.
Blasphemy is punishable by death in Pakistan and attempts to amend the law have sparked fierce resistance. Last year, college student Mashal Khan was lynched on his college campus by Islamists vigilantes who falsely accused him of blasphemy.
In 2011, the governor of Punjab province, Salman Taseer, was assassinated by his bodyguard Mumtaz Qadri for seeking to change the blasphemy law. When Qadri was finally executed for murder in 2016, thousands demonstrated on his behalf calling him a martyr.
Support for Qadri and harsh blasphemy laws does not just exist in Pakistan, however. Last year a mosque in Maryland held a memorial service for Qadri, in which they praised him as a “warrior” who “did everything for us and for the love of Islam.”