Teacher at Pakistan school killed for 'blasphemy': Police

Alex Law with the Best Screenplay trophy for Echoes of the Rainbow at the Hong Kong Film Awards on April 18, 2010. PHOTO: AFP

PESHAWAR, PAKISTAN (AFP) - A teacher at an all-girls religious school was killed by a woman colleague and two students who accused her of blasphemy, Pakistan police said on Wednesday (March 30), the latest murder in the country related to the hugely sensitive issue.

Few issues in Pakistan are as galvanising as blasphemy, and even the slightest suggestion of an insult to Islam can supercharge protests and incite lynchings.

The latest incident took place on Tuesday in Dera Ismail Khan, in the country's ultra-conservative north-western Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province that borders Afghanistan.

Police said two students and a teacher ambushed Ms Safoora Bibi at the main gate of the school and attacked her with a knife and stick.

"She died after her throat was slit," police official Saghir Ahmed told AFP.

The main suspect is a colleague who planned the crime with two nieces studying at the Jamia Islamia Falahul Binaat school, police said.

The girls told police that a relative had dreamt the dead woman "had committed blasphemy" against Prophet Muhammad, officers said, adding that they were also investigating if the main suspect, Umra Aman, had a personal grudge.

Police official Azeem Khan confirmed the details.

Known as madrassas, religious schools have long served as vital lifelines for millions of impoverished children in Pakistan, where social services are chronically underfunded.

But critics said students can be brainwashed by hardline clerics who prize rote learning of the Quran over core subjects such as mathematics and science.

Rights groups said Pakistan's blasphemy laws are often wielded to settle personal vendettas.

Last year, a Sri Lankan factory manager working in Pakistan was beaten to death and set ablaze by a mob after being accused of blasphemy.

The Centre for Social Justice - an independent group advocating for the rights of minorities - said at least 84 people were accused of committing blasphemy last year, and three people were killed by lynch mobs over similar allegations.

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