FIA inquiry concludes Shafqat ‘wasn’t a minor’

Published April 20, 2015
This development deals a sharp blow to the account presented by Shafqat’s family and defence team, who have maintained that he was a juvenile at the time of his conviction.— Photo by Abrar Haider
This development deals a sharp blow to the account presented by Shafqat’s family and defence team, who have maintained that he was a juvenile at the time of his conviction.— Photo by Abrar Haider

ISLAMABAD: An executive inquiry to determine whether death row prisoner Shafqat Hussain was a juvenile at the time of his sentencing has concluded that he was 23 years old when the punishment was handed down.

According to the text of the report, seen by Dawn, a three-member Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) inquiry team, led by Deputy Director Gulfam Nasir Warraich, has found “absolutely no contradiction in the record (which includes his pictures at the time of arrest) that Shafqat Hussain was 23 years of age at the time of arrest”.

Read: Shafqat Hussain's age: IHC summons responses from Nawaz, Mamnoon, others

This development deals a sharp blow to the account presented by Shafqat’s family and defence team, who have maintained that he was a juvenile at the time of his conviction.

According to the report, the inquiry was mandated “not to determine the age of Shafqat Hussain… [but] to ascertain whether the claim of juvenility of Shafqat Hussain at the time of crime is valid as per the facts on record or all the evidences available so far and whether the issue of juvenility can be legally or principally raised at this point of time”.

It details the inquiry team’s efforts as they visited Karachi, where the accused is incarcerated, and examined the “entire police/jail/legal and judicial record pertaining to the case”.

Also read: New evidence emerges in Shafqat Hussain case

The team also met with Mansoorul Haq Solangi, the lawyer who represented Shafqat before various trial courts and also visited the native village of the condemned man to meet his parents and teachers.

The report states that all documents related to the case,such as the ‘huliya form’ – which records an inmate’s physical condition upon internment – as well as the Criminal Record Office’s records, the jail’s admission register and the original history tickets, record Shafqat’s age as 23. This, the report maintains, was not challenged before any forum at any stage during the 10-year trial process.

The report also chastises Shafqat’s current defence team, Justice Project Pakistan (JPP), saying that while “the legal counsel publicly welcomed the constitution of this committee in her letter to [the interior secretary] dated Mar 27, but when we repeatedly invited them to appear before the committee and present any corroborating evidence; they preferred to stay away, saying that whatever documents they have they had already provided”.

However, JPP maintain that they have cooperated with the inquiry and provided them eight pieces of evidence “proving Shafqat’s juvenility”, including the CNICs of his father, mother and other family members, as well as a family tree and signed affidavits from his peers.

A birth certificate obtained by the legal team last December, that put Shafqat’s age at around 14 years, has been cancelled, according to the inquiry report.

The legal team also maintains that the government has ignored evidence collected from the primary school that Shafqat attended in the town of Kel, Azad Jammu and Kashmir. They say that as per the school’s enrolment register, Shafqat was born in 1986 and was therefore still a minor at the time of his conviction, and claim that this is the evidence on the basis of which the birth certificate issued last year was declared fake and cancelled.

JPP have also filed a petition before the Islamabad High Court, expressing dissatisfaction over the FIA’s investigation into their client’s age. Hearing the petition last Friday, Justice Athar Minallah had issued notices to the president, the prime minister, FIA, jail authorities and other parties, giving them 15 days to respond.

When contacted, an interior ministry official told Dawn that the report had been finalised and sent to the president, prime minister as well as the Human Rights Cell of the Supreme Court of Pakistan.

Published in Dawn, April 20th, 2015

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