A Pakistani student has shot and killed his school principal after they argued over the student missing classes to attend protests over “blasphemous” law changes, reports The Guardian.

Banner protesting against changes to the blasphemy laws, Peshawar 2017 (World Watch Monitor)
A banner protesting against changes to the blasphemy law, Peshawar 2017 (World Watch Monitor)

Police said the unnamed student had attended a sit-in staged by a new ultra-religious party, Tehreek-e-Labaik, to oppose a small change in wording to an electoral law, which the party said amounted to blasphemy.

The protest in the capital, Islamabad, resulted in seven deaths and ended with the government accepting all the party’s demands, including the removal of a minister.

The student has admitted the murder, saying “it was ordered by God” and that he had been “taught to kill the blasphemer”.

Pakistan’s blasphemy laws have faced regular criticism from human rights groups. The US Commission on International Religious Freedom said in its 2015 annual report that “blasphemy laws are inherently problematic… There is no clear definition of blasphemy, which empowers the accuser to decide if a blasphemous act has occurred. No proof of intent is required, nor must evidence be presented after allegations are made”.

In November, Members of the European Parliament visited Pakistan to press for a change to the law. They also met with the family of Asia Bibi, the Christian mother-of-five who was sentenced to death by hanging in 2010 after being charged with blasphemy.

Under Pakistan’s blasphemy laws, anyone found guilty of desecrating the Quran could be sentenced to life in prison, while insulting Islam’s prophet, Muhammad, is punishable by death. No-one has been executed yet, but many, after being freed on appeal, have left court to face mob justice. More than 50 people have been murdered in extrajudicial killings.