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ISLAMABAD: With the identity of three more Pakistani victims of the gruesome attacks on two mosques in New Zealand having been ascertained, the government announced on Sunday that the national flag would fly at half-mast throughout the country on Monday (today) in mourning.

Praising the courage and bravery of Naeem Rashid, who died in the attack while trying to intercept the shooter, Prime Minister Imran Khan announced a civil award for him, to be given at a ceremony that would be held on Pakistan Day.

“Pakistan is proud of Mian Naeem Rashid who was martyred trying to tackle the white supremacist terrorist & his courage will be recognised with a national award,” he tweeted.

The government and the nation have been in mourning since the tragic incident in New Zealand and an official notification said the national flag would remain at half-mast on Monday in reverence for the martyred and injured and to express solidarity with the bereaved families.

One-minute silence was observed by the players and spectators at a ceremony for the final of Pakistan Super League held at the National Stadium in Karachi on Sunday.

National flag to fly at half-mast today

The death toll from the tragic incident in which a gunman went on a rampage at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, has risen to 50. The shooter live-streamed the attack and in the video Rashid could be seen trying to stop the shooter.

At the request of his mother, a visa has been issued to her so that she could travel to New Zealand to attend the last rites of her son.

People have called Rashid a “real hero” after he tried to tackle the attacker and his 22-year-old son was also killed in the attack.

At a press conference, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi confirmed that nine Pakistanis had been killed in the mosque attacks, adding that Pakistan High Commission in New Zealand was in close contact with the families of the victims. Terming the incident unprecedented, he said the whole world was condemning it.

He said the incident was the first of its kind in New Zealand and he had also talked to his New Zealand counterpart who informed him that four suspects had so far been taken into custody.

OIC conference

Mr Qureshi said he had also talked to his Turkish counterpart and expressed solidarity with the people of Turkey on the killing of its two nationals in the New Zealand shootings.

He said Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had decided to call a conference of foreign ministers of member states of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in Istanbul on March 22 on the tragic incident. “I have spoken to the Turkish foreign minister and expressed support for the call to convene OIC foreign ministers’ conference,” he added.

Mr Qureshi said he would raise at the OIC conference the issue of increasing Islamophobia in the world.

The foreign minister said the shooter who went on rampage for 36 minutes was an Australian national who went to New Zealand recently.

He said the families of three deceased Pakistanis had asked the Pakistan High Commission for shifting of the bodies to Pakistan.

Earlier, Foreign Office spokesperson Dr Mohammad Faisal said three members of a family — Zeeshan Raza, his father Ghulam Hussain and mother Karam Bibi — were among the nine Pakistanis killed in the attacks on mosques in New Zealand.

New Zealand minister

Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of New Zealand Winston Peters on Sunday telephoned Mr Qureshi and expressed deep sorrow and grief over the killing of Pakistani nationals in the terrorist attack. He offered condolence to and expressed sympathy with the bereaved families, said a press release issued by the Foreign Office.

Mr Qureshi condemned the attack and called it a heinous and cowardly act and expressed deep sorrow on behalf of the government and people of Pakistan over the loss of 50 precious lives. He said the menace of terrorism had reached the shores of a peaceful and beautiful country like New Zealand. “The mindless killing-spree carried out by the terrorist once again proved that terrorism knows no religion or boundaries,” he said, adding that Pakistan itself was a victim of terrorism and had lost more than 70,000 innocent lives.

“This affirms Pakistan’s narrative that terrorism is an international phenomenon, having no religion and should not be associated with any religion,” he added.

The foreign minister wished speedy recovery to those injured in the incident and assured Pakistan’s support for the government and people of New Zealand in this hour of grief. Mr Qureshi requested his New Zealand counterpart for full assistance in transportation of the bodies to Pakistan.

Published in Dawn, March 18th, 2019