Radical liberal forces in India were up in arms when President Pranab Mukherjee rejected Yakub Memon’s mercy plea, thereby paving the way for his hanging. Circumlocutory articles, which read like pre-death eulogies, were written in Yakub’s name. Debates were held in which the Indian judicial system was branded “too cruel”. In no time the liberal forces successfully turned Yakub from a man convicted in the 1993 Bombay Blasts, which killed 257 people, to a victim of the Indian legal system. A measure of their success can taken from the 10000 odd people who attended Yakub’s funeral.
It seems liberal forces in Pakistan are either not present or are too weak. Had it not been so, a disabled murder convict would not have been up for the gallows.
Abdul Basit, a 43-year-old, was convicted of murder in 2009 and jailed subsequently. A year later he developed tuberculosis, which left him paralysed waist down.
In spite of this severe disability, the Pakistani authorities issued a ‘Black Warrant’ against his name on July 29. The warrant makes his execution imminent, but Basit’s lawyers have somehow managed to obtain a stay order.
UK daily The Telegraph reports that he now faces the possibility of being hanged in his wheelchair, after he lost the use of his legs to tuberculosis.
The Telegraph added that according to a medical report on Basit’s health, his disability is a “complication of tuberculous meningitis”, which leaves patients without any chance of recovery.
“He is likely to remain bed bound for the rest of his life,” The Telegraph quoted a doctor as saying.
Basit, allegedly, received improper care during the illness, which led to his paralysed condition.
A final hearing on 25 August will be held, to decide whether he can be put to death.
Meanwhile, Basit’s lawyers have cited have said that since the Pakistan Prison Rules of 1978 do not make any specific rules for executing disabled people, the execution would amount to a cruel and unusual punishment, breaching Pakistani and international law.
The lawyers, from Justice Project Pakistan, have also written to President Mamnoon Hussain seeking an urgent mercy for Basit.
Meanwhile, the only problem the jail authorities are mulling over is how to hang Basit.
The Faisalabad Central Jail’s handbook reads:
“The condemned prisoner shall mount the scaffold and shall be placed directly under the beam to which the rope is attached, the warders still holding him by the arms.”
But since Basit cannot support his own body weight, he wouldn’t be able to mount the platform from which he is to be hanged.
His lawyers also argue that it is impossible to accurately measure the length of rope required to hang him, since he cannot stand. Hanging him with a rope of the wrong length would give him an “appalling death”.
Authorities in Pakistan, it seems, are unconcerned. Ever since the lifting of a moratorium on death sentences following the Peshawar school attack, executions have become common in Pakistan.
According to Khaleej Times, around 200 convicts have been hanged for various reasons this year alone.
One case that brought global shame to Pakistan was of Shafaqat Hussain, who was hanged on August 4. He was convicted of a murder he committed at age 14, but his lawyers and human rights groups alleged that his confession was extracted through torture.
With 8000 people awaiting execution, Pakistan has the world’s largest number of death row inmates. And at the rate it is executing, Pakistan will soon become a leader among executioners.
The countries with the highest number of reported executions in 2014 were:
Iran – 289; Saudi Arabia – 90; Iraq – 61; USA – 35; and Sudan – 23
Pakistan has already executed 200 and we still have four months before the year ends.
One major reason why an outcry against death penalty is not as forceful as is in, say, India is because the hoi polloi of the country supports capital punishment. As the BBC reports, in Pakistan capital punishment is often justified as an essential part of the Islamic principle of “an eye for an eye”.
If that is indeed the case, Basit should have no hope.