'My father’s killer was sentenced to death at the age of 17; I forgive him and don't want him hanged'
I was 17-years-old when my father was killed. The boy who was arrested for his murder was the same age as me. He went to jail and was sentenced to death.
It was easy to be angry. It was easier still to hate him. After all, Muhammad Iqbal had no reason to do what he did to my family. But it happened anyway and we were powerless to stop it.
Suddenly, our household was in trouble. My father was our only source of income who had always taken care of everything, and with his death everyone turned to me – his eldest.
I had to find the means to support my four siblings and mother. Anger, sorrow and vengeance had to be put aside. There was no time for it. And with hard work, I realised, there was no use for it either.
I used to console my mother, and tell her that God was with us. That He would protect us. And He did.
With time, honesty, and hard work we were able to bring our lives back on track. We now have a small dairy business and I run a general store.
Things have been better. I now have school-going children of my own.
But Iqbal’s future may as well not exist.
Iqbal went to jail and has been there since 1999. He has spent more time in his life inside prison than outside it. He has, quite literally, grown up on death row.
Iqbal’s brother, Abbas, found his way to me a few years ago. He was a man weighed down – bent over by the terrible weight of knowing the magnitude of his request, almost broken by the knowledge of what his younger brother was going through.
At first, I was livid and turned him away.
But he came, again and again. He begged us again and again. People will do everything they can to save a loved one. And killing his brother will not bring back my father.
For all intents and purposes, and as far as my family is concerned, we believe Iqbal has been punished for what he did. He has learnt his lesson. And we forgive him, everyone including my mother. If not for his sake, then for the sake of his family that has already suffered enough.
But our wish to not see him hang may ultimately mean nothing. Iqbal was convicted by an Anti-Terrorism Court, which does not allow his sentence to be commuted.
We appealed to the Supreme Court on his behalf but this was denied. There is no room for forgiveness in the Anti-Terrorism Act, even if there is in our hearts.
Take a look: A flawed anti-terrorism law
I used to tell my siblings that my father’s death was in God’s plans. My father was sitting at the back of the van, and there were other people who were in the van right next to him.
The bullet that ricocheted off of the steering wheel could have hit any of them. But it did not. A small, unthinking decision about where to sit in the car decided my father’s fate.
Hanging Iqbal is detrimental for society. He was a boy, and he made a mistake and we are always more than the worst thing we have done.
Whether it was for our own peace, or to bring some to Iqbal’s family – we forgive him. God tells us to forgive our enemies, and that is what we’ve done.
We cannot force the government to save him from the gallows. It is their prerogative.
But if they are going to hang him for us, we say don't hang him. He can salvage what remains of his life, and move on so that we can all be relieved of that terrible night.
Muhammad Iqbal deserves to live.
This entire episode has already punished enough children.
Waheed Ahmed narrated this story to Rimmel Mohydin, who put it in form of an article.
Justice Project Pakistan has released a report that underscores the need for reform in the country’s primary counterterrorism legislation, particularly with regard to the lack of safeguards for juvenile offenders like Iqbal.
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