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British convict gets birthday gifts: He wants life

June 01, 2006

RAWALPINDI, May 31: British High Commission’s consular staff visited British national and murder convict Mirza Tahir Hussain in Adiala Jail on Wednesday to offer him good wishes and gifts on the eve of his birthday, Dawn learnt from jail sources.

A jail official would only say on condition of anonymity that neither the convict nor his family had made any request for the special occasion.

Tahir turns 36 on June 1 and has spent nearly 18 years on the death row. His execution was set for June 3 but President Pervez Musharraf stayed the execution for one month after appeals from the British government to grant mercy to Tahir.

No family member is expected to visit him to wish “Happy Birthday” as his immediate family lives in London and his old grandfather in the far away native Chakwal.

His elder brother, Mirza Amjad Hussain, who was here trying desperately to save his life, left for London last week with a glimmer of hope that the dissenting note in the split judgment of the Federal Shariat Court, that changed the life term handed down to him by the trial court into death sentence, would win him reprieve.

Tahir’s case history reads weird. His tribulations started with the taxi he hired on landing at Islamabad airport on a cold December 1988 night to take him to his Chakwal village. On the way, he alleges, the taxi driver, and the companion he insisted to take along, tried to rob him at gunpoint and got killed in the scuffle.

The trial court first sentenced him to death. But later on the instruction of the Lahore High Court where the convict went into appeal, reduced it to life term after a review.

Tahir again went into appeal, this time to the Federal Shariat Court, which to his misfortune enhanced the sentence to death by hanging in a split judgment.

Justice Abdul Waheed Siddiqui of the FSC dissented with brother Justices Dr Fida Mohammad Khan and Mohammad Khiyar and gave the benefit of doubt to the accused because he found the three versions of the crime presented by the prosecution mutually annihilating.

“This is a case of blind murder and entire evidence in all the three conflicting, mutually annihilating versions of the prosecution have their basis on the circumstances,” wrote Justice Siddiqui.

“There is no eye-witness of the incident, and thus no direct evidence that it is Tahir alone who has definitely committed the murder of a taxi driver Jamshed Khan.”

The police tried to make out a foolproof case against Tahir. To show that the appellant was a person of desperate character, he was involved in another case registered on December 19, after the registration of present case, for an offence of robbery alleged to have been committed on December 17.

In that case even identification parade had not been arranged. He was acquitted from that case on May 3, 1994 by magistrate 1st class Rawalpindi.

Police contended that the murder weapon, a pistol, was not foreign made. Even its holster was locally made. Appellant came from England by air and has not imported either of the two. Wherefrom he got the same, there in no evidence on the record, the dissenting judge noted.

It is nearer to truth that the pistol belonged to the deceased or his companion. It is of common knowledge also that when taxi drivers, pathans in particular, go on long routes and that too at night hours, they always keep with them some sort of fire-arms.

Station House Officer Inspector Mohammad Arif, who was also a complainant and investigation officer of the case, had admitted before the court that the taxi No IDB-4049 was given on superdari to the owner under the orders of the court.

One of the contention of the counsel for appellant was that FIR had been registered not only after the commencement of investigation, but almost the entire investigation preceded recording of FIR which contained a prepared story after deliberations amongst the police and the complainant party.