The teacher was apparently cleaning his weapon when it discharged, striking the 12-year-old as he was fetching a drink from the water cooler.
Nelam Ibrar Chattan, a local social activist, said the shooting occurred at a private school on the outskirts of Mingora. That's the hometown of Malala Yousafzai, who was shot in the head by the Taliban in 2012 because of her efforts to enroll more girls in school.
Chattan said the student’s parents suspect that the teacher may have shot their son out of malice. But Naseer Khan, head of the local police force, said it appears to have been a tragic mistake. “I don’t suspect it was intentional," Khan said.
There was no immediate comment from Pakistani leaders about whether the incident alters their view of arming teachers. In January, however, the head of the region's provincial teachers association repeatedly expressed concern about the policy.
"Our job is teaching, not carrying a gun," Malik Khalid Khan told NBC News.
Although it happened on the other side of the world, Thursday's shooting could eventually creep into the debate in the United States about whether teachers should be allowed to carry weapons in the classroom. In March, the National Education Association published a report noting 20 states were considering measures that could open the door to firearms on school grounds or college campuses.
Already, in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook school shooting in Connecticut, seven states have loosened rules surrounding whether teachers, administrators or others routinely on school grounds can be armed, according to the Council of State Governments. “Although these laws vary, it should be noted that they all require teachers or staff who may be armed to either have concealed carry permits or some other type of training or licensure,” the council said in the 2013 report.
Pakistan also has a longstanding policy requiring its citizens to be licensed before they can lawfully possess a firearm.