May 21, 2018 / 8:43 AM / in a month

Father of Pakistani girl killed in Texas hopes her death can spur reform

ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - The father of a Pakistani girl killed in a Texas school shooting said on Monday he hoped that the death of his daughter, who wanted to serve her country as a civil servant or diplomat, would help spur gun control in the United States.

Aziz Shaikh, father of Sabika Aziz Sheikh, a Pakistani exchange student, who was killed with others when a gunman attacked Santa Fe High School in Santa Fe, Texas, U.S., holds for media, his mobile phone displaying photo of his daughter at his residence in Karachi, Pakistan May 19, 2018. REUTERS/Akhtar Soomro

Santa Fe High School, southeast of Houston, on Friday joined a grim list of U.S. schools and campuses where students and staff have been gunned down, stoking a divisive U.S. debate about gun laws.

Among the eight students and two teachers killed in Texas was 17-year-old Pakistani exchange student Sabika Sheikh.

“Sabika’s case should become an example to change the gun laws,” her father, Aziz Sheikh told Reuters, speaking by telephone from the family home in the city of Karachi.

Most Pakistani youngsters dream of studying abroad, with the United States the favorite destination for many.

Aziz Sheikh said the danger of a school shooting had not crossed his mind when he sent Sabika to study in the United States for a year.

Aziz Shaikh (C), father of Sabika Aziz Sheikh, a Pakistani exchange student, who was killed with others when a gunman attacked Santa Fe High School in Santa Fe, Texas, U.S., is comforted by relatives at his residence in Karachi, Pakistan May 19, 2018. REUTERS/Akhtar Soomro

Now he wants her death to help spur change.

“It has become so common,” he said of school shootings.

“I want this to become a base on which the people over there can stand and pass a law to deal with this. I’ll do whatever I can,” he said.

Students said the teenaged boy charged with fatally shooting 10 people, Dimitrios Pagourtzis, opened fire in an art class shortly before 8 a.m. on Friday.

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Sabika was part of the YES exchange program funded by the U.S. State Department, which provides scholarships for students from countries with significant Muslim populations to spend an academic year in the United States.

Sabika loved her time in Texas, Sheikh said.

“She appreciated it so much. She was so excited to be there and to study and meet the people, especially the teachers,” he said.

Her family spoke to her every day and she had been due to return to Pakistan on June 9, at the end of the school year.

U.S secretary of state Mike Pompeo offered his condolences in a statement on Saturday, saying Sabika was “helping to build ties between the United States and her native Pakistan”.

Her father said Sabika had wanted to work in government in some capacity, to help her country.

“She would say she wanted to join the foreign office or the civil service,” her father said.

“The reason was that she said was there is a lot of talent in Pakistan but the image and perception of the country was really bad, and she wanted to clear that up.”

The U.S. ambassador to Pakistan, David Hale, visited the family in Karachi to offer condolences, the U.S. embassy said in a statement.

Reporting by Saad Sayeed; Editing by Robert Birsel

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