PAKISTAN: CAPITAL PUNISHMENT: It’s not just about Shafqat

My oped in The News, Pakistan below. Also see my earlier piece on the issue in in Scroll – Clamour to hang Shafqat Hussain reflects vengeful mood in Pakistan after Peshawar attacks

Shafqat Hussain - more than 10 years ago, before he left his village in AJK

Shafqat Hussain – more than 10 years ago, before he left his village in AJK

PAKISTAN: CAPITAL PUNISHMENT
It’s not just about Shafqat

by  Beena Sarwar

Shafqat Hussain is due to be hanged — for the seventh (not fifth, as I wrote earlier) time — at 4.30 am on August 4, 2015. His ‘black warrant’ was issued on July 27, despite a comprehensive 12-page report by the Sindh Human Rights Commission (SHRC) on July 16 that urges the Sindh government to move to stay the execution, and approach the Supreme Court of Pakistan to “consider the evidence which could not be produced at the trial by defence”.

The SHRC’s recommendations cannot be taken lightly. This is a government-appointed statutory body set up in 2013 under the Human Rights Act of 2011 passed by the Sindh government. A respected retired judge of the Supreme Court heads it. At stake is a human life.

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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

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