New black warrant sought to hang ‘underage’ killer

Published March 12, 2015
Shafqat Hussain was said to be 14 years old at the time of his conviction. Photo courtesy of the Justice Project Pakistan
Shafqat Hussain was said to be 14 years old at the time of his conviction. Photo courtesy of the Justice Project Pakistan

KARACHI: Jail authorities approached on Wednesday an antiterrorism court to issue a fresh black warrant for the execution of a condemned prisoner, said to be a juvenile, and the court is likely to issue it on Thursday.

Shafqat Hussain was condemned to death by an ATC, when he was under 18, in September 2004 after finding him guilty of kidnapping and killing a seven-year-old boy in April 2004 within the jurisdiction of the New Town police station.

Officials of the Karachi central prison asked the trial court (ATC-III) on Wednesday to issue the fresh black warrant for the hanging of the death row prisoner since the government had lifted an interim stay against his execution.

Take a look: Execution of death row prisoner Shafqat Hussain halted

The appeals and mercy petition of the condemned prisoner had already been rejected by the superior judiciary and the presidency, respectively, they added.

A court official said that the court was expected to issue a black warrant on Thursday (today).

The death row prisoner has been dodging death for the past many years since implementation on his black warrants, repeatedly issued by the trial court, was stayed as the Pakistan Peoples Party government had placed a moratorium on executions after coming into power in 2008.

Also read: Footprints: Lives and a death on hold

However, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz government lifted the ban on Dec 17, 2014 in the wake of the Peshawar school carnage and thereafter the counsel for the death row prisoner petitioned the Sindh High Court against his possible hanging stating that he was wrongly convicted as a juvenile in the kidnapping and murder case.

However, an SHC division bench dismissed the petition on Dec 24, 2014 for not being maintainable and observed that after availing almost all remedies, including a review appeal before the apex court, the question of being an underage accused was raised again which was not taken up during trial.

It added that within the constitutional mandate the SHC could not revisit the case at this stage or pass any order to set aside a series of judgements in the present case while the question of juvenility had not been turned down by the apex court.

On the request of jail authorities, the trial court issued on Jan 4 a black warrant for his execution and fixed Jan 14 for his hanging.

But the interior ministry stayed his hanging and said that the issue of his age to be examined. However, a few days ago the ministry through a notification said that the government had completely reinstated capital punishment for all offences that entail the death penalty.

The prosecution said that the convict was the watchman of a residential building, Nadeem Arcade, and he kidnapped Umair as he came downstairs from his second-floor apartment and took the boy to his room. The watchman hit him in the head with a club when he insisted to leave the room and died instantly and he dumped the body in the room, it added.

He demanded a ransom from the victim’s father and disposed of the body on the next night in a nearby drain and kept on calling the victim’s family from different public call offices to deliver the ransom, though he himself never turned up, the prosecution said.

Finally, he asked the victim’s father to place the money under a wooden box lying inside the compound of Nadeem Arcade. On May 21 the watchman was arrested as the police claimed that the box belonging to him, the prosecution concluded.

However, the convict was said to be 14 years old when he was convicted and his conviction was mainly based upon his own confession before a magistrate which was allegedly made after nine days of police torture.

Around a decade after signing the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Child in 1990, the government had promulgated the Juvenile Justice System Ordinance (JJSO), 2000 to enable law offenders under the age of 18 to enjoy special treatment in the eyes of law and bar the death penalty.

But, the JJSO is appeared to be a poor piece of legislation as it is badly influenced by the Anti-Terrorism Act, 1997 and other special laws as it has apparently no overriding effect on them and legal experts believed that the law will not serve the purpose until it prevails over all the existing laws.

However, uncertainty still existed on the issue as appeals have been pending before the apex court since 2005 about the fate of the JJSO, which was struck down by the Lahore High Court in December 2004.

The Supreme Court temporarily suspended the LHC judgement in February 2005, after admitting the appeals filed by the federation and an NGO for child rights protection, for regular hearings.

But, the appeals are still pending.

Published in Dawn, March 12th, 2015

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