UPDATE: Shafqat execution stayed… for now

Huge, heartfelt thanks to all those who raised a voice to save Shafqat Hussain. The President of Pakistan has reportedly granted a 72-hour reprieve (originally reported as ‘indefinte’) for the case to be re-investigated. This young man has spent 10 years or more in prison already, since the age of 14 when he was first arrested for the murder of a little boy who had been kidnapped. There are many flaws in the case that led to Shafqat being sentenced to death at age 15 after a confession extracted under severe police torture. He has not seen his parents since he left his village in Neelum Valley, Azad Kashmir to come to Karachi for work after dropping out of school (has a learning disability). The execution has been stayed – for now. It’s a temporary victory for those who’ve fought for his life. The question remains, will the government re-examine the evidence and move to give him justice? And how many more Shafqats languish, poor, marginalised and resourceless, in our prisons and death rows?

Journeys to democracy

Shafqat Hussain, photo taken before he left Muzaffarabad more than 10 years ago. Shafqat Hussain, photo taken before he left Muzaffarabad more than 10 years ago.

Who is Shafqat, why is he being hanged, and why should we care? What were you like when you were 14? Please watch this lovely little video (also embedded below) and act to save Shafqat Hussain, death warrant issued (again) for Thursday, March 19. Shafqat was 14 when he left his village in Muzaffarabad, AJK, to go to Karachi looking for work. He was dirt-poor and resourceless, tortured into confession for the murder of a child, tried under the Anti-Terrorism Act (because the murder ‘spread terror in the neighbourhood’). The government-appointed lawyer never provided proof of his age. He was 15 when the court sentenced him to death. He has now been on death row for 10 years. In January, his execution was stopped under pressure from people like us. Pakistan Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar had promised a re-investigation into the…

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Who is Shafqat, why is he being hanged, and why should we care?

Shafqat Hussain, photo taken before he left Muzaffarabad more than 10 years ago.

Shafqat Hussain, photo taken before he left Muzaffarabad more than 10 years ago.

UPDATE: Jan 01, 2014: Funds urgently needed for Shafqat’s defence. Please click this link for details and see what you or your friends can do. Detailed BBC report Justice at risk as Pakistan rushes convicts to the gallows

This is Shafqat Hussain. A poor boy who was arrested for  kidnapping and murder when he was 14 years old. He confessed to the crime after nine days of police torture (they pulled out three fingernails, the cigarette burn marks are still visible on his body). Continue reading

Move beyond conflict and ratings

Tributes to Peshawar terror attack victims

School children in Chennai pay tributes to Peshawar terror attack victims on Wednesday. Photo: R. Senthil Kumar/ PTI

Wrote this on Dec 18, 2014 for Lokmat Media, Pune: Situationer/ Comment on Peshawar attack aftermath in Pakistan, published on Dec 20 in three languages (below).

By Beena Sarwar

Two days after the horrific attack on an army-run school in Peshawar that killed 148 people, most of them schoolchildren, an anti-terrorist court approved bail for Zaki-ur Rehman Lakhvi, leader of the banned terrorist outfit Lashkar-e-Tayyaba (LeT).

Lakhvi is allegedly the mastermind behind the horrific attacks in Mumbai in November 2008 and India has been demanding his extradition. India and Pakistan have not yet signed an extradition treaty though the possibility has been discussed in the past. He is unlikely to walk out on bail anytime soon. Prosecution lawyers said that the ATC decision came despite evidence against Lakhvi, and that they will challenge the decision. Continue reading

So beautiful and so bitter: Fatima Bhutto and her versions of truth


Photo: Courtesy Mag Weekly

Post updated Jan 2019, on request by her agent, to embed a link to Fatima Bhutto’s profile page with the mention below “to help her to gain more traction and booking requests”. Interestingly the profile mentions an ‘aunt’ who was ‘violently killed’ without saying *who* the ‘aunt’ was… Also updated to add another link: if I can do that for Fatima, why not for Victoria Schofield?


She’s beautiful and bright (looks so much like her late aunt Benazir) – no wonder journalists (outside Pakistan notably) have been bowled over, leading to an overdose of fawning media attention (Khuswant Singh’s article takes the cake) in which few have tried to go beyond the surface.

Her father Murtaza’s cousin Tariq Islam (Z.A. Bhutto’s sister’s son) is one of the few people to have publicly challenged her version of the truth in at least one aspect. In her recently published, highly publicised book, Fatima Bhutto alleges that Z.A. Bhutto wrote to Murtaza to set up a militant base Afghanistan to wage an armed struggle against the military dictator, Zia ul Haq. Continue reading

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