ISLAMABAD: The United States urged Pakistan on Thursday to take action over the killing of an American national in a crowded courtroom as he faced trial for blasphemy.

Tahir Ahmed Naseem was shot multiple times at close range as he appeared in a court in Peshawar on Wednesday.

“We urge Pakistan to take immediate action and pursue reforms that will prevent such a shameful tragedy from happening again,” the US State Department said in a tweet.

As Naseem’s arraignment began before the judge, a young man in the room pulled out a handgun and shot him in the head, officials and witnesses said. The young man was arrested on the spot.

On Thursday, supporters of a religious group held a protest rally in Peshawar calling for the release of the suspected shooter, saying he had defended his religion.

The aftermath of the killing, captured on video and shared on social media, showed Naseem slumped over in a chair beside the judge’s bench, as other shackled prisoners, some with bloodied clothes, were taken from the room.

The young man who shot him had no remorse, said Latif Afridi, who heads the Peshawar High Court Bar Association.

Mr Afridi questioned how the man managed to get a gun into the court given that all visitors are checked thoroughly at three different points. “It is likely someone who can go without being checked, perhaps a police officer or a lawyer, handed the shoo­ter the gun after he entered,” he said.

Published in Dawn, July 31st, 2020