Last-gasp bid to save teenage convict
KARACHI: A human rights law firm filed a petition on Tuesday in the Sindh High Court (SHC) challenging the black warrants for death row prisoner Shafqat Hussain, who is facing execution on January 14.
In 2004, an anti-terrorism court sentenced Shafqat to death while he was just 14 years old.
The NGO, Justice Project Pakistan (JPP), also demanded that Shafqat’s name be removed from the list of terrorists, arguing that the government had lifted moratorium only on the death penalty of militants.
“Shafqat is not a terrorist and has no affiliation with any terrorist organisation,” said the JPP director Sarah Belal to The Express Tribune.
On Monday, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan announced in the National Assembly that Shafqat’s execution was being halted and an inquiry would be initiated into his case. However, no official notification has been issued thus far.
Karachi’s Central Jail Deputy Superintendent Shakir Hussain Shah said they have received no notification from the court or the government and the jail will go ahead with the hanging, if no notice arrives. “We require a notification to halt the execution. If that does not happen, the execution will be carried out on the scheduled date,” he said.
In the prison
Shafqat has now been moved to an isolated room, a special cell for prisoners who are sent to the gallows. The prisoner’s brother Majeed, who works in Rawalpindi, said he rushed to Karachi upon hearing the news about his impending execution.
However, Shafqat’s parents might not be able to see their son for the last time – if he is hanged. “We are very poor. Who would not want to meet their child before he is to die but we can’t afford to bring them from Muzaffarabad to Karachi?” says a sad Zaman.
As activists use Twitter to initiate a saveshafqat campaign, his family claims that he is innocent and demand reinvestigation of the case.
“Shafqat was forced to admit a crime he did not commit as they [police] tortured him,” said his elder brother Manzoor via phone from Muzaffarabad.
JPP spokesperson Shahab Siddiqi said Shafqat was tortured for nine days and forced to sign a confession. “He was beaten and electrocuted and burnt with cigarette. His arms still bear the scars.”
In the court, Shafqat spoke about the police torture but the court did not order any medical examinations.
His lawyer did not even challenge the death penalty awarded by an ATC, in spite of the fact such punishment could not be given to a 14-year-old, whose was convicted on only one piece of evidence, his confession, Siddiqi adds.