Stories about death sentence

Why Taimoor Raza’s death sentence does not come as a surprise in Pakistan

Last week, an anti-terrorism court in Bahawalpur gave 30-year-old Taimoor Raza a death sentence for allegedly blaspheming the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) on social media. The verdict left many stunned since it was the first time a death sentence has been given to someone for their actions online. Yet, despite it being a shocking legal decision, it was not a surprising one. At least not for those of us who have been keeping up with the country’s constantly evolving crackdown on its citizens’ cyberspace activities. For years now, activists, politicians, and journalists have bemoaned the many ways that Pakistan’s antiquated blasphemy laws can be abused. Whether it is ...

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In Pakistan, mental illness is diagnosed by a legal expert not a doctor

Every psych unit in the world teems with patients who confess a desire to do the morally unthinkable, or legally dubious. What separates them from the garden-variety criminal is their lack of control over their own thoughts and behaviours. Imdad Ali, a 50-year-old citizen convicted of murdering a cleric many years ago, is a known schizophrenic. His condition has been verified by a government psychiatrist, Dr Tahir Feroze, among others – who, reportedly, has also demanded pardon for Mr Ali on medical grounds. Schizophrenia is a condition characterised by hallucinations, illogical thoughts, and bizarre or even aggressive behaviour. The sub-type of ‘paranoid ...

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‘You’re so bipolar’: Mental illness is not a joke

In an age where obtaining information is as simple as typing a few letters in a search bar and pressing enter, it’s disconcerting to witness the extent of disillusionment when one realises we’re so uneducated in matters of great importance. Mental illness is one of those things. We may live in the 21st century. We may live in a world where automobiles can drive themselves. Yet, as far as mental illnesses go, we may very well be back in the 17th century. The extent to which people are unaware about mental illness is so pervasive, that those who are informed of it are ...

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The National Action Plan has been as counter-productive as Pakistan’s blasphemy law

Following the ghastly December 2014 Taliban attack on 132 schoolchildren, Pakistan’s government unanimously passed a National Action Plan (NAP) so that, “No room will be left for the extremism in any part of the country.” Among its 20 points, NAP outlaws radical literature and funding, calls for restructuring in the FATA region and Balochistan to address regional grievances, and lifts the moratorium on the death sentence for convicted terrorists. But well over a year into its execution, NAP has been less effective and more counter-productive than meets the eye. As one of numerous examples, consider the case of 81-year-old optician Abdul Shukoor. This past January, Shukoor, an Ahmadi Muslim, and ...

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After five years, will justice finally prevail for Aasia Bibi?

Aasia Bibi, a Christian woman, was sentenced to death approximately five years ago, an incident that added to the miseries of the already-marginalised Christian minority within Pakistan. At the time, very few had the mental capacity to question the Lahore High Court’s verdict to sentence an innocent woman to death, and for those who did, the chickens came home to roost. Salman Taseer paid his price for speaking against the heinous blasphemy law with 27 bullets in his body and blood splattered all across Kohsar Market, with his words drenched in blood, “My resolve is so strong that I do not fear the flames from without, I fear ...

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Legally speaking, Shafqat Hussain can be executed

The case of Shafqat Hussain has been in the lime light for many days now; much has been written about the circumstances surrounding it. If we browse through social media regarding this issue, conflicting opinions are found, ranging from the very typical “propaganda by foreign funded NGOs” to the more realistic “Shafqat killed a child so he should be hanged too” and many in between. But most people seem to be confused about how the juvenile justice system in Pakistan works. Things are virtually the same on electronic media; some are calling for a retrial on the plea of juvenility over the allegedly forced confession through torture ...

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An open letter to Junaid Jamshed

Dear JJ Sahib, First of all, condolences for the recent situation you find yourself in. It is most unfortunate that our first correspondence be in times that are possibly troubling for you. With the formalities out of the way, I have a confession to make – I really could not care less about your situation. Why then am I writing you a letter? Like others from my generation, I grew up listening to your songs. I met you 15 years ago, backstage after a concert. I was a star-crazed teenager and you were, well, a star. You gave me a hug and laughed ...

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First execution in 6 years: Government plays with Shoaib’s life

Pakistan ranks sixth in the total number of people it executes after China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and the United States. According to Amnesty International estimates, there are more than 8,500 prisoners on death row in Pakistan. The only legal method of killing a condemned prisoner is hanging them till their neck breaks.  According to the International Commission of Jurists, Pakistan is ‘part of a dwindling minority among states which have retained the death penalty and carry out executions’. However, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s policy on the execution of death sentences is still at best – unclear. An order issued by former president Asif Ali ...

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He killed her son, she spared his life

It was recently reported in The Guardian that during a public execution in Iran, 20-year-old Balal, who was convicted of killing his 18-year-old friend Abdollah Hosseinzadeh, had the noose around his neck when Abdollah’s mother stormed up to him, slapped him and then forgave him for murdering her son, halting the execution and saving his life. Photo: AFP Photo: Reuters As quoted by The Guardian, Balal’s mother hugged the grieving mother of the man her son had killed. The two women sobbed in each other’s arms – one because she had lost her son, the other because hers had ...

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An eye for an eye: A death sentence to Shahrukh Jatoi and Siraj Talpur, life to another

Shahrukh Jatoi and Siraj Talpur, along with two others, have been given the death sentence today. The harsh reality of murder has just taken its form and reactions across the board differ. Many people are pondering over whether or not this really is justice served. In my opinion, it is. As cruel as it may sound, I not only agree with the decision made by the court but laud their valour to resort to such a decision. Many feel this may be another instance of judicial activitism but this is, unfortunately, justice in its raw form. Some may argue that the sentence is ...

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