On January 22, 2018, a second year student at the New Islamia Public College, Shabqadar, in the district of Charsadda, Pakistan, allegedly shot and killed the school’s principal after a confrontation over the student’s absence from classes.
The student, Faheem Shah, reportedly did not attend classes for several days in November, in order to attend a series of protests, known as the Faizabad sit-in. The protests began after members of the Tehreek-e-Labaik party, a national Islamist party, complained that wording in the 2017 Election Bill was blasphemous. Although government officials claimed that the language was a clerical error, the issue sparked nearly a month of protests around the country, and ultimately led to the resignation of the Minister of Law.
Sareer Ahmad, the college’s principal, reportedly reprimanded Shah for his poor attendance record. Shah responded by accusing Ahmad of blasphemy, and subsequently shot him multiple times, killing him. Shah was arrested and taken into police custody shortly thereafter.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about allegations of blasphemy against, and the targeted killing of, a college administrator, apparently arising out of academic or administrative conduct. In addition to the harm to the immediate victim, such incidents have a chilling effect on academic freedom and freedom of expression. State authorities have a responsibility to ensure the security of academic communities, to prevent future attacks, and to hold perpetrators of violent attacks accountable.