Obviously it feels bad whenever the warrants are issued. I start to count down the days, which is in itself painful, and I find that my nerves are shackled in the same way as my body. In truth, I die many times before my death. I suppose my life experience is different from that of most people, but I doubt there is anything more dreadful than being told that you are going to die, and then sitting in a prison cell just waiting for that moment. For many years – since I was just 15 years old – I have been stranded between life and death. It has been a complete limbo, total uncertainty about the future.
These are the moving words of a letter penned by Aftab Bahadur Masih, a Pakistani Christian who was executed last week. Following the Peshawar School attack, the death penalty moratorium was lifted.
The reinstatement for all capital offenses means people found guilty of crimes including adultery, apostasy, and blasphemy could face death once they run out of appeals. This is especially concerning for Christians and religious minorities in the Islamic country due to inequalities in the justice system and blasphemy laws.
The controversy of sending more than 150 people to the gallows since December 2014 continues and when the European Union called for this law to be reinstated and that the government needed to think over it, the silence was deafening.
Kristin Wright, advocacy director for Open Doors USA, called Pakistan’s justice system “flawed” and noted unfair trials are common. Numerous Christians who have been falsely accused of blasphemy could have the fate Aftab Bahadur Masih had.
Pakistan needs to respect its international obligation. Convicting those who are accused or are terrorists is one thing and those who are tortured into confessing just because they are not in a position to seek legal assistance is beyond human.
Even if the death penalty moratorium is not reinstated the Government needs to work on striking out those who are actually guilty of crimes and those who fall prey due to their social and financial distress. After all it will not be a Christian convict whose sentence will be held for 4 times.