Pak­istan de­fies rights demon­stra­tions, hangs ‘teenage’ con­vict

The China Post - - INTERNATIONAL - BY ASHRAF KHAN AND SA­J­JAD QAYYUM

Pak­istan on Tues­day ex­e­cuted a man con­victed of killing a child, brush­ing aside a storm of protests from rights groups that his con­fes­sion had been ex­tracted by tor­ture and he was a mi­nor at the time of the crime.

Shafqat Hus­sain was hanged shortly be­fore dawn at a jail in Karachi for killing a seven-yearold boy in the city in 2004, his brother and a prison of­fi­cial told AFP.

The case raised grave in­ter­na­tional con­cern, draw­ing protests from the United Na­tions, as his lawyers and fam­ily said he was only 15 at the time of the killing and was tor­tured into mak­ing a false con­fes­sion.

In Muzaffarabad, the main town of the Pak­istani ad­min­is­tered part of Kash­mir, his fam­ily was dis­traught.

“Why did they hang my in­no­cent brother, only be­cause we were poor?” said his sis­ter Su­maira Bibi, beat­ing her chest and weep­ing.

His mother Makhni Be­gum, looked glassyeyed, stunned by the news of the ex­e­cu­tion af­ter see­ing her son re­prieved from the gal­lows four times since Jan­uary.

“My son was in­no­cent, only Al­lah will prove his in­no­cence in his court,” she told AFP.

“We can’t do any­thing but they (ex­e­cu­tion­ers) will face Al­lah on the day of judge­ment.”

‘I never touched the boy’

United Na­tions rights ex­perts said Hus­sain’s trial “fell short of in­ter­na­tional stan­dards” and urged Pak­istan not to hang him with­out in­ves­ti­gat­ing the tor­ture claims, as well as his age.

Hus­sain’s brother Gul Za­man said that in their last meet­ing, just a few hours be­fore he faced the scaf­fold, he con­tin­ued to protest his in­no­cence.

Za­man told AFP his brother’s last words to him were: “I never even touched the boy — I want to let the world know this as I lay down my life.”

Af­ter re­ceiv­ing the body, another of Hus­sain’s broth­ers claimed the hang­ing had not been car­ried out prop­erly, telling AFP “half of his neck is sep­a­rated from his body.”

The Kash­mir gov­ern­ment made a last-minute plea to Pres­i­dent Mam­noon Hus­sain late on Mon­day to post­pone the ex­e­cu­tion, but to no avail.

Hus­sain was orig­i­nally due to face the gal­lows in Jan­uary but won four stays of ex­e­cu­tion as his lawyers fought to prove he was un­der 18 at the time of the of­fence and could there­fore not be ex­e­cuted un­der Pak­istani law.

An of­fi­cial probe into his age ruled he was an adult at the time of his con­vic­tion — though the re­sults have not been pub­lished of­fi­cially.

Bri­tish anti-death penalty cam­paign group Re­prieve said the hang­ing rep­re­sented “all that is wrong with Pak­istan’s race to the gal­lows”, while Amnesty In­ter­na­tional ac­cused the gov­ern­ment of “cal­lous in­dif­fer­ence” to hu­man life.

Pak­istan has hanged around 180 con­victs since end­ing a six-year mora­to­rium on ex­e­cu­tions in De­cem­ber af­ter Tal­iban mil­i­tants mas­sa­cred more than 150 peo­ple at a school, most of them chil­dren.

Hang­ings were paused dur­ing the Is­lamic holy month of Ramadan but re­sumed last week.

The Euro­pean Union last week voiced se­ri­ous con­cerns about the “alarm­ing pace” of ex­e­cu­tions, warn­ing that a prized trade sta­tus granted to Pak­istan could be threat­ened if it breached in­ter­na­tional con­ven­tions on fair tri­als, child rights and pre­vent­ing tor­ture.

Child Kid­napped, Slain

Hus­sain, the youngest of seven chil­dren from a re­mote vil­lage in Kash­mir, was work­ing as a watch­man in Karachi in 2004 when a sev­enyear-old boy named Umair went miss­ing from the neigh­bor­hood.

A few days later Umair’s fam­ily re­ceived calls from Hus­sain’s mo­bile de­mand­ing a ran­som of half a mil­lion ru­pees (US$8,500 at the time), ac­cord­ing to le­gal pa­pers.

Hus­sain was ar­rested and ad­mit­ted kid­nap­ping and killing him, but later with­drew his con­fes­sion, say­ing he had made it un­der duress.

His true age has proved dif­fi­cult to as­cer­tain — ex­act birth records are not al­ways kept in Pak­istan, par­tic­u­larly for peo­ple from poor fam­i­lies like Hus­sain’s.

AFP

Pak­istani Kash­miri woman Sa­fura Bibi, the sis­ter of con­victed mur­derer Shafqat Hus­sain, re­acts af­ter news of Shafqat’s ex­e­cu­tion, in Muzaffarabad, the cap­i­tal of Pak­istani-ad­min­is­tered Kash­mir on Au­gust 4.

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