PESHAWAR: An under-trial prisoner arrested over two years ago on a charge of committing blasphemy was shot dead by a teenage boy inside a courtroom at the Peshawar Judicial Complex here on Wednesday.

The deceased, Tahir Ahmad Naseem, 57, was seated in the court of an additional sessions judge after arguments in his case, awaiting to be shifted to prison, when he was shot dead at point-blank range by 19-year-old Faisal, a resident of the Gulabad area.

Policemen present inside the courtroom apprehended the killer on the spot and seized the pistol used in the offence. He will be produced in the court on Thurs­day (today) by police for obtaining his physical custody.

The body was later shifted to a mortuary for autopsy.

Soon after the incident, a video went viral on social media showing the deceased lying on a court bench with a pool of blood underneath. The video also shows the suspect in police custody telling people that the deceased was a blasphemer.

Police are interrogating the suspect to ascertain how he carried a pistol into the highly guarded Judicial Complex and whether anyone had motivated him into committing the offence. An FIR of the incident was registered at the East Cantt Police Station under Section 302 of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC), Section 7 of the Anti-Terrorism Act and Section 15 of the Arms Act.

The complainant, constable Mumtaz Khan, claimed that he had brought the accused (deceased) handcuffed inside the courtroom whereas another constable Imtiaz Khan was waiting outside. All of a sudden a young boy present inside the court started firing at the accused who died on the spot, he added.

The deceased had recently filed an application in the court, requesting he be permitted to recite Kalima Tayyaba so as to show that he was a Muslim and did not belong to the Ahmadiya community. Following the arguments by the prosecution and defence on the application, Judge Syed Shaukatullah Shah had adjourned the hearing to Oct 12.

Sources said the prosecution had opposed the application on grounds that the trial had already been in progress. The prosecution had requested the court to include certain provisions of the Pakistan Penal Code dealing with blasphemy, which were not included during indictment of the deceased by the court on Feb 4, 2019.

Peshawar city police chief Mohammad Ali Gandapur and SSP Mansoor Aman visited the place of occurrence and issued directives for conducting a proper investigation into the incident.

Sources in contact with the family of the deceased said he had been residing in the United States with his family and visited Pakistan in 2018 after he got in touch with some persons on social media who asked him to return to his country to propagate his faith.

The case against the deceased was registered at the Sarband Police Station on April 25, 2018, under sections 153-A (promoting enmity between different groups), 295-A (acts intended to outrage religious feelings of any class), 295-B (defiling Holy Quran), 295-C (derogatory remarks in respect of Holy Prophet) and 298 (uttering words to wound religious feelings) of the PPC.

The complainant in that case was Malik Owais, a resident of Nowshera, who was a student of a religious seminary in Islamabad.

The deceased was indicted on Feb 4, 2019, under sections 153-A, 295-A and 298 of the PPC, whereas the charge sheet did not include sections 295-B and 295-C.

The deceased had denied the charges and decided to stand trial.

Published in Dawn, July 30th, 2020