President approached to halt execution of mentally ill Ghulam Abbas

Published June 17, 2019
PM’s special assistant urges president to exercise his powers and halt execution. — AFP/File
PM’s special assistant urges president to exercise his powers and halt execution. — AFP/File

ISLAMABAD: Special Assistant to Prime Minister on National Health Services Dr Zafar Mirza on Sunday wrote a letter to President Dr Arif Alvi requesting him to halt the execution of a mentally ill patient planned on June 18.

He also spoke to Minister for Human Rights Dr Shireen Mazari and later got an assurance from President Alvi that appropriate action would be taken.

A human rights law firm, Justice Project Pakistan (JPP), on Saturday claimed that a sessions court in Rawalpindi had issued a death warrant for the execution of a mentally unwell prisoner on June 18. It urged the government to halt the execution of 36-year-old Ghulam Abbas, who has clear symptoms of mental illness, for further evaluation.

PM’s special assistant urges president to exercise his powers and halt execution so that death row prisoner’s psychiatric evaluation can be done

“Abbas’ execution must be stayed and he should be transferred to a mental health facility to be comprehensively assessed,” Sarah Belal of JPP said.

It was also claimed that the medical examination records showed that jail authorities had treated Mr Abbas with strong anti-psychotic drugs as he had a genetic predisposition to mental illness.

Imprisoned in 2004, Abbas was sentenced to death on May 31, 2006, by a district and sessions court for stabbing a neighbour.

He has spent more than 13 years on the death row and a fresh mercy petition has been filed requesting the president to grant him a reprieve.

According to the letter, on behalf of Ministry of Heath Dr Mirza has requested Dr Alvi to exercise his powers and halt the execution so that Abbas’ proper psychiatric evaluation can be done and appropriate actions can be taken.

“Sir, this is a health issue apart from a human rights issue and there is a grave danger of miscarriage of justice. Also, there is a need to see the issue of mercy petitions from prisoners on death row especially for the mentally ill persons in a broader context and reform the system,” he stated.

When contacted, Dr Mirza said that after learning the issue through media, he took an initiative and wrote to the president.

“We should not let this happen unless psychiatrists examine the patient and declare him mentally fit. I also spoke to Dr Shireen Mazari and she agreed that she would also play her role to halt the execution. Later, we contacted presidency and got assurance from Dr Alvi that he would take an appropriate action,” he said.

“Moreover, this issue shows that there can be many more such cases and it requires to thoroughly examine other cases so that no mentally ill patient would be executed,” he said.

Published in Dawn, June 17th, 2019

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