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Teacher's murder sparks calls for school protection for Pakistan's girls

By Shaan Khan and Paul Armstrong, CNN
March 28, 2013 -- Updated 0701 GMT (1501 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Husband says government did not provide protection
  • Shahnaz Nazli was on her way to an all girls school when gunmen struck
  • Case has similarities with last year's attempted murder of teen Malala Yousafzai
  • Petition calls for protection for women and girls in Pakistan's schools

(CNN) -- The murder of a teacher has prompted a petition calling for Pakistan's government to take a greater role in protecting girls and teachers attending school.

Shahnaz Nazli was on her way to an all girls school where she taught in the village of Shahkas, in the country's northwestern Khyber tribal district, when two men on a motorcycle pulled up and opened fire, government official Asmatullah Wazir told CNN.

She was transported to hospital in the nearby town of Jamrud, but later died from the multiple gunshots to her body.

Nazli's husband and son, however, told CNN that the teacher died at the scene.

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"I was standing next to my mother when they fired the first shot and she fell to the ground," her son, Daniyal Ahmad said.

The attackers shot Nazli again and told her son to run away.

"When I came back, my mother was struggling to breathe. She had five minutes of life in her," he said.

Nazli had been a teacher for 24 years and had never been threatened, said her husband, Ishtiaq Ahmad. However, due to escalating terrorism, the government had transferred Nazli and other teachers to Khyber.

"There was no security from the government," he said. "Not just for my wife, but for all the teachers. My wife was martyred while she was on duty."

Eighteen suspects have been arrested in an operation to find the culprits, said Wazir, the government official. He added that no one has taken responsibility for the attack.

The Khyber Agency is one of seven semi autonomous tribal agencies in northwest Pakistan along the Afghan border. The area has been a hotbed of militant activity in recent years.

The case has chilling similarities with the attempted murder last year of Malala Yousafzai, a teenage schoolgirl from Pakistan. The 14-year-old was riding home in a school van in the Swat Valley, a Taliban stronghold, when masked men stopped the vehicle. They demanded that the other girls identify Malala, and when they did, the men shot Malala in the head and neck. The gunmen also shot another girl, wounding her.

READ: Teen returns to school after Taliban attack

Malala's story, especially her recovery from appalling injuries against the odds, moved Pakistan to vow that it would more vigorously fight for girls' rights and against the Taliban.

She gained international attention three years before she was shot, as a campaigner for girls' education in Pakistan. In 2009, she wrote a blog published by the BBC about how she wanted to go to school but was afraid -- the Taliban had banned all girls from schools in the region.

But on her blog, Malala praised her father, who was operating one of the few schools that would go on to defy that order. She started giving interviews with news outlets, including CNN.

Former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who serves as the United Nations Special Envoy for Global Education, has championed education issues in Pakistan, especially after the shooting of Malala.

OPINION: Malala spurs school-for-all vow, now deliver, says Brown

His office called Nazli a "courageous teacher" who wanted "to ensure girls have the right to go to school." It appealed for Pakistan's president and government to protect girls and teachers in schools.

"We call for all girls and all teachers to be protected and given security to enable them to enjoy their basic right to be educated," read a statement on their online petition.

CNN's Madison Park contributed to this story.

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