ISLAMABAD: A twenty-one-year-old man of Pakistani origin shielded an Indian boy from a second round of bullets last week in one of two attacks on mosques in New Zealand in which at least 50 people were killed.
Nine Pakistanis were killed in the attacks carried out by an ultra-right white extremist who live streamed the attack and published a racist manifesto online.
One of the victims, a Pakistani professor called Naeem Rasheed, was seen in the live footage launching himself at the attacker in a bid to disarm him. He was gunned down. The Pakistan government has announced a national award for him and helped his mother and brother, Dr. Khursheed Alam, travel to New Zealand to attend his funeral on Friday.
Rasheed’s son Talha Naeem was also killed in the attack and eye witnesses and relatives describe his last few moments as having been spent shielding an Indian boy. Pakistan and India are arch-rivals and almost came to the brink of war last month.
“Very few people know about the heroic effort of my nephew [Talha Naeem],” Rizwan Rasheed, the brother of Naeem Rasheed and a retired air force pilot, said. “At the time of the shooting, he was offering his prayers. After being shot, he fell on the floor and there was a boy next to him ... he covered the boy and told him not to move as the shooter fired a second round to ensure everyone was killed," Rizwan told Arab News, quoting family members present in the New Zealand city of Christchurch who said the boy was Indian.
The Indian boy survived.
Nadeem Khan, a former Muslim community leader in New Zealand, also said Naeem had shielded the Indian boy from a fresh round of bullets, adding that the survivor had detailed the accounts to his wife, the sister of Rasheed’s widow.
Rizwan said he hoped New Zealand authorities would complete the “procedure and protocol” for his brother and nephew’s funerals in a timely manner so their last rites could be performed as soon as possible.
Last week, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan announced a national award for Rahseed.
“Pakistan is proud of Mian Naeem Rasheed who was martyred trying to tackle the White Supremacist terrorist and his courage will be recognized with a national award," Khan tweeted on Monday.
Foreign Office spokesman Dr. Muhammad Faisal told Arab News that the government was in the process of finalizing which award would be conferred on Rasheed, saying the decision was yet to be taken and a formal announcement would be made soon. But with most of Rasheed's family out of the country to attend his funeral in New Zealand, it was likely the award would be given after Pakistan Day celebrations on March 23.