Pakistan plans award for man who tried to stop Christchurch gunman

Video footage showed Mr Naeem Rashid trying to tackle the gunman outside one mosque before being shot.
Video footage showed Mr Naeem Rashid trying to tackle the gunman outside one mosque before being shot.PHOTO: NAEEM RASHID/FACEBOOK

ISLAMABAD • Mr Naeem Rashid, 50, a teacher and father of three who emigrated from Pakistan to New Zealand a decade ago, was busy this month planning the spring wedding of his son Talha, 21.

Neither father nor son lived to celebrate the occasion. Both were killed last Friday, along with seven other Pakistanis, when a gunman struck at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, killing at least 50 people and wounding scores.

But since then, Mr Rashid has become a national hero in his native country, after video footage of the shootings showed him trying to tackle the gunman outside one mosque before being shot.

"My brother was a brave man who died to save others. His death showed how he cared for humanity," Mr Rashid's brother Khurshid Alam said in a telephone interview on Sunday from his home in Abbottabad, Pakistan.

He said that just a few days ago, "we were talking to Naeem about the family coming to Pakistan for Talha's wedding. Now, we are talking about his death and funeral arrangements".

Mr Alam said that Mr Rashid and his son, who was shot alongside him, "fell victim to terrorism... The whole world should work together to eliminate this scourge".

Avowed white supremacist Brenton Tarrant, a 28-year-old Australian, has been charged over the massacres.

Pakistan has been both a victim and alleged source of Islamist terrorism for two decades. Even as tens of thousands of Pakistanis have been killed in Islamist militant attacks, India, Afghanistan and the United States have accused it of sheltering and supporting other militant groups that stage attacks abroad.

The slayings in Christchurch signified a relatively rare instance in which Muslims living peaceably overseas have been targeted by mass violence because of their religion.

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan announced on Sunday that Mr Rashid would be given a posthumous national award for bravery.

In tweets after the attack, Mr Khan said the country was proud of Mr Rashid, "who was martyred trying to tackle the white supremacist terrorist".

Mr Khan said the Christchurch attacks "reaffirm what we have always maintained: that terrorism does not have a religion".

He also said: "I blame these increasing attacks on the Islamophobia post-9/11, where Islam and 1.3 billion Muslims have collectively been blamed for any act of terror by a Muslim."

His government yesterday declared a national day of mourning, and ordered that all flags to be flown at half-staff.

WASHINGTON POST

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 19, 2019, with the headline 'Pakistan plans award for man who tried to stop gunman'. Print Edition | Subscribe