Death-row prisoner rescued
Rah e Nijat Ministries rescue a prisoner after paying ransom
By – Shamim Masih
ISLAMABAD: After three years on death row in Central Jail Adyala, Rawalpindi, Sajid Masih’s death sentence was commuted to life imprisonment. He was released 15 years later in early July, 2015, after human activist who had been visiting him in prison requested the superintendent to pay his fine after completion of his life imprisonment.
Sajid and His brother Shakil awaited trail for more than three before being sentenced to death for murder in 1995 in Gujrat. Sajid was transferred to the notorious death row in Adayla Prison, Rawalpindi. There, he waited in a windowless, 2 x 2.5 m cell for his turn to be executed. He shared that space – its cardboard matrix on floor and single bucket toilet – with as many as 10 – 15 other death row inmates. While on death row, Sajid witnessed numerous mass executions by hanging. People were executed on a monthly – sometimes weekly – basis especially under the last two tenure of the political and military ruler General Parvaiz Musharaf. Sajid also witnessed and have faced torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment on a regular basis. “It was like hell, we were undergoing both mental and physical torture,” he said. He said he was spared from such treatment because his family and Rah e Nijat Ministries often visited him and other prisoners in the jail. Some of those who are not so lucky are still suffering others died from some infectious diseases which were rampant in the prison.
Despite his time on death row, Sajid does not feel resentment or want revenge. Religion and services in the Jail Church have changed my life, he said. Safder Chaudhry, Secretary General, Rah e Nijat Ministries said Pakistan should abolish the death penalty. He feels that Pakistan has lost a lot of skilful people due to the government’s death penalty policies; people who could have contributed to society but who were executed instead after sitting for years on death row. Both were happy when they visited me at my residence.
Sajid is one of many thousands of Pakistanis whose lives have been threatened by the death penalty. He was lucky to be spared when Lahore High Court has turned his death sentences to life imprisonment in 2003. Despite the democratic government which came into power in 2008 in the country under civilian ruler, the death penalty is still on and mandatory for certain criminal offences.
The European Union – EU repeatedly expressed concern over increasing executions in Pakistan and demanded of the government to reinstate the moratorium on the death penalty and fully respect all of its international obligations.
There are currently over eight thousands inmates on death row prisoners in Pakistan, according to the government statistics. There are national debates which highlighted how the population is divided over the issue. The abolitionists claimed that the justice system cannot deliver justice while rejectionists claim that death penalty deters crime and that it is part of religious-based legal systems.
A day-long discussion on “World Day against the Death Penalty” unanimously opposed a generalized application of the death penalty and was also in agreement that in over two dozen capital offences on the statute books the death penalty was not mandated by Islam. However the government decided to resume state-sanctioned executions after the tragic Army Public School massacre at the end of last year. Since then more hundred people have been hanged till death. Out of those, only few percent are being tried as terrorists, therefore, lifting the moratorium on the death penalty for all those convicted and given capital punishment has instigated heated controversy.

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