Shafqat’s Execution Suspended Again

Justice Athar Minallah of the Islamabad High Court put off the execution of Shafqat Hussain, a murder convict, on Tuesday for one more day and directed the counsels to complete their arguments by Wednesday. This is the third time that a delay has occurred in the execution of Shafqat Hussain. He had been scheduled to hang on May 6th after his death warrant had been issued on April 24th by an anti-terrorism court (ATC) after an executive inquiry had been conducted by the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), which came to the conclusion that he hadn’t been a minor when the punishment was given.

However, his execution had been suspended by the court because of a petition that had been filed by the Justice Project Pakistan (JPP), which had asked for a judicial inquiry to be done into the age of the murder convict so his hanging had been delayed until a verdict was issued. In the hearing, it was inquired by Justice Minallah as to who had given the orders of holding the inquiry for ascertaining the age of the death row convict. The court was told by the government court that the inquiry had been conducted on the orders given by the interior ministry.

It was observed by the court that after the orders of the Supreme Court in 2003, it was illegal for the FIA to conduct an investigation into Hussain’s age. A petition has been filed by Shafqat’s defense, which is none other than the Justice Protection Pakistan (JPP), in the Islamabad High court where they have expressed their dissatisfaction over the investigation undertaken by the FIA into their client’s age. The council of the petitioner, Dr. Tariq Hassan had pointed out that an identical matter had been dealt with by the Supreme Court back in 2003 where a death-row convict had been attempting to benefit under the Juvenile System Ordinance 2000.

He said that it was declared by the apex court that the age of the accused can only be determined by a judicial forum. Last Friday, notices had been issued to the Prime Minister, the President, jail authorities, FIA and other parties by Justice Athar Minallah and he had given them 15 days to respond.

Hussain had been working in Karachi in April 2004 as a watchman when a seven-year-old boy had gone missing from the nearby area. The boy’s family had received calls from Hussain’s mobile a few days later demanding a ransom of about half a million rupees. He had been arrested and had admitted to the kidnapping and killing of Umair during his first interrogation. The body of the victim was found in a stream in a plastic bag and Hussain had been sentenced to death in the same year. Numerous heartbreaking appeals have been made by Hussain’s family to the government, complaining about a flawed justice system.

They claim that the confession had been obtained from their son torture, which could render it inadmissible. They said he was electrocuted, burned with cigarettes and his fingernails removed.