KARACHI, Pakistan — The father of the Pakistani exchange student who was killed in the Santa Fe High School massacre said Tuesday that he thought his daughter would be safe in America.
Now 17-year-old Sabika Sheikh is coming home in a coffin, and her despondent father, Abdul Aziz Sheikh, is demanding that the Trump administration do something so other families don’t have to bury their children.
“We used to think that our kids aren’t safe in a place like Pakistan, that things aren’t right here, but such bad things don’t happen in America, and that my daughter would be safe over there,” a grieving Sheikh told an NBC News crew in Karachi, speaking in his native Urdu.
Switching to English and fighting back tears, Sheikh called on Trump to take concrete steps to keep weapons out of the hands of troubled teenagers like murder suspect Dimitrios Pagourtzis — in the name of his slain daughter.
“Nobody under 16 years can buy tobacco or alcohol, but he or she can buy guns,” Sheikh said. “What is this? I expect Trump administration to make law for this and I hope they will make this law in the name of Sabika Aziz Sheikh.”
Pagourtzis, 17, was armed with his father’s Remington 870 short-barreled shotgun and a .38-caliber Rossi revolver when, police say, he killed 10 people and wounded 13 more on Friday during a 25-minute rampage at the Texas school. He is now behind bars, charged with multiple murders, and awaiting trial.
Sabika was mourned Sunday at a ceremony in a Houston-area mosque and her body was expected to arrive in Karachi late Tuesday for a Wednesday funeral.
Sheikh said he is well aware of his country’s reputation for terrorist violence and also aware that the U.S. could also be a dangerous place.
“Karachi or Santa Fe, they’re both safe and unsafe,” he said. “But Pakistan gets highlighted as being dangerous and unsafe. There are dangers everywhere. Every place is both safe and unsafe.”
Still, Sheikh said he encouraged his daughter to study in the U.S. “She was really excited as well to go and study abroad,” he said.
Sabika’s uncle, Syed Haider Ali, said the U.S. needs to act “for the sake of your kids.”
“They can’t make sure kids’ bags are searched properly?" he asked. "This is my request to the American people: make sure that your representatives act in a way that schools become safe."
Sheikh said he wanted all schoolchildren to remain free of violence. “I hope that the U.S. government and the Trump administration will understand this, that my daughter is gone. But this shouldn’t happen to any other daughter or son.”
Wajahat S. Khan reported from Karachi, and Corky Siemaszko from New York.