Before The Sun Comes Up: JPP to host unique live art performance on

The stories by Mohammed Hanif offer a glimpse into the lives of four prisoners as they await the dawn of their execution
Published September 28, 2020

Justice Project Pakistan (JPP) will be hosting a unique live art performance based on four short stories written by acclaimed novelist Mohammed Hanif on October 10 at 6pm onwards.

Titled ‘Before The Sun Comes Up’, the stories offer a glimpse into the lives of four prisoners as they await the dawn of their execution.

Narrated by actor and filmmaker Sarmad Khoosat, the haunting stories will be accompanied by puppetry and visuals by Emma Brierley, and original live music by Hailey Beavis.

“I have been thinking of Ghulam Qadir and Ghulam Sarwar who were accused of murder and then sentenced to death. Finally they were acquitted by the Supreme Court. Only they had been hanged a year earlier,” says Hanif. “It should make us all reflect about our collective desire to hang people summarily. Do we want justice or do we want a spectacle and a distraction?”

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Commemorating the 18th World Day Against the Death Penalty, the performance will highlight flaws in the criminal justice system and how fleeting justice can be.

JPP and have collaborated in the past for No Time To Sleep, a 24-hour live stream charting the final hours of Prisoner Z as he waited for his execution. The performance earned critical acclaim both locally and internationally with 1.4 million views.

Read review: No Time To Sleep is an emotionally charged look at capital punishment

“This project is what a real collaboration of artists looks and feels like. I am absolutely thrilled to be a part of it,” says Sarmad Khoosat about the upcoming performance. “The opportunity to lend my voice to something written by Mohammed Hanif is an honour and the most exciting thing that happened to me in 2020.”

Last year on October 10th, JPP collaborated with House Ltd and Highlight Arts to create an immersive performance art exhibit at Bari Studios, Lahore. ‘We’ve Been Waiting For You’ involved eleven performance artists using their bodies as a medium to express loss, power, isolation, incarceration and death.

The performance is meant to encourage a meaningful conversation on the issue of capital punishment and wrongful executions.

Currently, 4,225 prisoners await execution on Pakistan’s death row, one of the largest in the world. This includes juveniles as well as mentally ill and physically disabled prisoners.

This is in contravention to both Pakistan’s domestic laws and its international obligations to human rights treaties such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

Ali Haider Habib, spokesperson for Justice Project Pakistan, adds: “Art has the power to move people on a visceral and primal level. We feel it is important to humanise the stories of victims caught in a justice system that can be both inhumane and unjust. The Coronavirus pandemic has brought many miseries for many people, but none more so than for those behind bars facing the harshest punishment without any means to contact their lawyers or families.”

This article is part of a collaboration with Justice Project Pakistan in the lead-up to the World Day Against the Death Penalty on October 10th.