Holy warrior! | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, August 11, 2020 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:17 AM, August 11, 2020

Holy warrior!

Pak teen feted for killing US blasphemy suspect

Faisal Khan, a 15-year-old Pakistani, beams for selfies with lawyers and police. Thousands hail him in the streets as a "holy warrior."

His claim to adulation? Allegedly gunning down in open court an American accused of blasphemy, a capital crime in this Islamic republic.

Khan is charged with murder, which also carries a death sentence. But while lawyers line up to defend him, the attorney for Tahir Naseem, the US citizen, has gone into hiding.

The teen, according to officials and witnesses, got through three security checkpoints on his way into a courtroom in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar on July 29, pulled out a pistol and fired multiple shots into Naseem, 57, at a bail hearing. Naseem died on the spot.

His killing grabbed global headlines, put a fresh spotlight on Pakistan's blasphemy laws and drew criticism from abroad, even as many in the country praised the shooter.

Thousands rallied, calling for Khan's release. Delegations of well-wishers - lawyers, clerics, local politicians - have visited the Khan family home in Peshawar to congratulate the family.

Peshawar-born Naseem, who claimed himself as a prophet, often visited his village, where he expressed views that "upset locals," said Wajid Ali, a local who knew Naseem. Naseem's statements landed him in prison several times, said Ali. In those cases, he said, the intervention of locals, who believed Naseem was mentally unstable, got him released.

In 2018 one of the students of  his village seminary convinced Naseem to travel to Pakistan, where they met at a Peshawar shopping mall, according to court documents seen by Reuters. "He came thinking this student will believe him and others will join his call," Ali said. "But the student had already told the police. They were standing nearby in plainclothes and they arrested him."

Naseem was charged with Blashphemy. Two years later, awaiting his bail hearing surrounded by police and lawyers, he was gunned down.

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