PAKISTAN – Waiting on death row: Prison data from around the county

november 12, 2012 http://tribune.com.pk

Pakistan has one of the largest populations of condemned prisoners and inmates on death row in the world – 7,164 according to official prison records, and over 8,000 according to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan.

Without an official declaration, the Pakistan Peoples Party government stopped all executions after it came to power in 2008, making Pakistan one of 36 countries in the world observing a moratorium on the death penalty.

There was also talk of a legislation to abolish the death penalty and convert it to life imprisonment, spurred on by a broad-based consensus that criminal law in general, and death penalty convictions in particular, are tilted against the accused and the poor are worst-hit by it. Four years later the bill is yet to see the light of day. Reforming a law on which legislation, especially Shariah-based law, already exists appears increasingly tricky.

Government officials are still non-committal, and opposition lawmakers are already responding with a resounding no. As the government’s term nears its end, the death row population waits for a final decision on its fate.

Meanwhile jails, and the number of people on death row, continue to swell as the lower judiciary keeps on awarding death sentences prolifically.

K-P

Number of jails:  18

Number of prisoners : 8,450

Number of condemned prisoners: 120

Malik Noor Badshah

Haripur Central Jail

Badshah was sentenced to death by a Rawalpindi ATC for a suicide attack on former Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz in Fateh Jhang Tehsil of Attock district on July 30, 2004. Qari Muhammad Siddique, Salman alias Zaheer and Qari Ahmed were also awarded capital punishment in the same case but they are lodged in other jails of the country.

Niaz Muhammad

Haripur Central Jail

Muhammad is the co-accused in the assassination attempt on former Army chief and president Gen Pervez Musharraf on December 14, 2003 in Rawalpindi. At the time of his arrest, Muhammad was a junior technician in the PAF. Field General Court Martial sentenced Muhammad and his five accomplices to death in October 2005 after a trial spanning a year. The condemned filed an appeal before the Lahore High Court against their conviction which was rejected in March 2006 and another appeal in the Supreme Court was turned down in September 2006. His review petition before the SC was also dismissed in March 2011. Of his accomplices, Adnan Rashid escaped with over 287 inmates from Bannu jail in a daring attack by the TTP in April this year.

Fazal Hamid

Haripur Central Jail

Hamid, an activist of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, has been convicted for a gun-and-grenade attack on Shah-i-Najaf Imambargah in Rawalpindi on February 26, 2002 that killed 11 worshippers. The police arrested 10 suspects and prosecuted them in Rawalpindi’s ATC. On December 9, 2004 a trial court handed down death sentence to Hamid and his three accomplices, Habibullah, Tahir Mehmood and Hafiz Naseer Ahmed, while Ashraf Ali was jailed for seven years for driving the motorcycle used in the attack.

“When Ziaul Haq was the president of Pakistan I worked as Section Officer (SO) Mercy Petitions, a post which was later abolished. I still remember that in his 11 years tenure he rejected all mercy petitions except one that he turned into life imprisonment. It was his policy”

A government official in the K-P Home Department

“There was no police in Swat in 2010, when they left their stations out of fear; when they came back after nine months, they started arresting people on false intelligence reports”

A government official in the K-P Home Department

SINDH

Number of jails: 27

Number of prisoners : 14,322

Number of condemned prisoners:  353

Saulat Ali Khan aka Saulat Mirza

Karachi Central Jail

Mirza, belonging to the Muttahida Qaumi Movement, is facing capital punishment for the 1997 murder of Shahid Hamid, a former managing director of KESC. Mirza was arrested in 1998 and sentenced to death by the ATC a year later for killing Hamid, his driver, and his guard. His appeals were rejected by the Sindh High Court in the year 2000, and by the Supreme Court in 2001. A news report last year stated that Mirza’s mercy appeal was with the interior ministry in 2008.

Jail officials, on condition of anonymity, said Mirza enjoys freedom in the jail, and is better off than other prisoners. “Mirza Bhai has his own UPS, a DVD player, and mp3 player,” said an official.

Mirza has also been accused, by former interior minister Zulfiqar Mirza, of running a network of target killers from inside the jail.

Chaudhry Aslam, the police officer who arrested Mirza, said the court’s execution order should be carried out. “His crimes were proved in the court. He should be punished.”

Ahmed Omar Saeed Shaikh

Hyderabad Central Jail

Shaikh, a British national of Pakistani descent, was given the death sentence in 2002 for the murder of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl by the Karachi ATC. At present, the 37-year-old is waiting for the Sindh High Court to take a decision against his appeal.

Educated at the Aitchison College in Lahore and the London School of Economics, Shaikh is said to have fought in Bosnia and Kashmir and later accused of kidnapping foreigners in India.

Aligned with the terrorist group Jaish-e-Mohammad, Shaikh was arrested in Lahore in February 2002, on suspicion of kidnapping Pearl. Three months later, police found Pearl’s body on the outskirts of Karachi and Sheikh confessed to the murder.

Sheikh’s lawyer Rai Bashir told The Express Tribune that the appeal against the death sentence has been adjourned several times because of unavoidable circumstances such as deaths of lawyers and conflicts in dates. “Also, the government does not want it to be heard as the case is weak. Maybe they are thinking of the pressure from the Americans. We want a decision to be taken on it at the earliest.”

PUNJAB

Number of jails :  32

Number of prisoners :  52,659

Number of condemned prisoners:  6,604

Manzoor Ahmad

Kasur Jail

Ahmad, confined since 2003 in a murder case, was condemned to death by the Special Judge ATC. The ATC refused to accept forgiveness by the legal heirs of the deceased, a leniency allowed by the law. The court’s rejection was based on the fact that Section 6(2)H of the Anti Terrorism Act was included in the FIR against him, which makes his murder a non-compoundable offence. Both his appeals to the Lahore High Court and to the Supreme Court were rejected. His mercy petition was also dismissed by President Musharraf. Ahmad was to be hanged when the PPP came into power but President Zardari’s general stay on executions has given Ahmad a temporary lease of life.

Ahmad’s brother, Muhammad Akbar, wants to move the Federal Shariat Court to get the ATA sections that make FIRs non-compoundable declared un-Islamic. “When Islam has held murder as a compoundable offence, why is our law not accepting it?” Akbar said.

Aqeel alias Dr Usman

Adiala Jail

Aqeel was convicted by an army court for the attack on the Army’s General Headquarters on October 10, 2009. He was captured by the commandos in an injured state. Aqeel was convicted after five months of proceedings at an undisclosed location. He is also believed to be the mastermind of the attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team in Lahore. His appeal is pending in the military court of appeals.

Mumtaz Qadri

Adiala Jail

Qadri, a police constable, shot at and killed Punjab governor Salman Taseer. His appeal is pending before the Islamabad High Court.

BALOCHISTAN

Number of jails   : 11

Number of prisoners :  2,496

Number of condemned prisoners :  87

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