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Hundreds mourn Pakistani exchange student
KARACHI, May 23, (Agencies): Hundreds mourned a Pakistani exchange student killed in a mass shooting at a Texas high school last week during her burial in Karachi Wednesday. Sabika Sheikh was among the 10 people gunned down at a high school in Santa Fe last Friday when a heavily armed student opened fire on classmates. Relatives sobbed and hugged as Sheikh’s remains arrived at her family home in a casket draped with a Pakistani flag.
The body was then taken to a public meeting ground where hundreds gathered to say prayers and pay their respects before the burial at a nearby cemetery. “My daughter is a martyr and martyrs don’t die,” Sheikh’s father Abdul Aziz said after the prayers. Officials participating the ceremony labelled her killing an act of terrorism. “The whole nation stands by the Pakistani girl who was martyred in a terrorist attack in the US. May God give patience to her parents and family,” provincial governor Mohammad Zubair told reporters after the funeral. Hours earlier, a Pakistani honour guard escorted Sheikh’s casket off a plane at Karachi’s Jinnah International airport during a ceremony overseen by government officials and US consul John E. Warner. Following the funeral, Pakistani Nobel laureate Malala Yousafzai — who was shot by the Taleban in 2012 for advocating girls’ rights to education — also weighed in, calling for an end to school violence. “I hope leaders in the US, Pakistan and around the world will do justice to the lives of Sabika, her classmates and their teachers by doing more to stop violence in schools,” said Yousafzai in a statement.
Sheikh had been in the US on a State Department-sponsored exchange programme but was due to return home in mere weeks ahead of Eid al-Fitr, the holiday marking the end of the Holy Muslim month of Ramadan. Despite strained relations between Washington and Islamabad, the US has long been a favoured destination for Pakistani students studying abroad, with thousands enrolling in American schools every year.
Sheikh’s death came just three months after another school massacre in Parkland, Florida killed 17 people, sparking an unprecedented grassroots, student-led gun control movement. The shooting in Santa Fe was the 22nd such incident at a US school this year, according to media reports, a disturbing statistic in a country where firearms are part of everyday life and there are more than 30,000 gun-related deaths annually. Among about 400 people at the funeral was US Ambassador David Hale and politicians from the provincial Sindh government.
“This innocent girl had gone to brighten the name of Pakistan,” Amir Khan, a senior leader of the Muttahida Quami Movement party which forms the city government in Karachi, told reporters at the funeral. “But due to bad luck in a country that accuses the world of terrorism, she became a victim of terrorism herself.” Sheikh’s father, Aziz, said earlier the thought of school shootings had never crossed his mind when he sent Sabika to study in the United States. “Sabika’s case should become an example to change the gun laws,” Aziz Sheikh told Reuters.
Sabika was part of the YES exchange programme funded by the US State Department, which provides scholarships for students from countries with significant Muslim populations to spend an academic year in the United States. She was due to return to Pakistan on June 9