ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Monday dismissed a petition seeking a judicial inquiry into the age of Shafqat Hussain by deeming it inadmissible and upheld the decision to execute the condemned prisoner.
The JPP had called for a judicial inquiry into the age of the death row convict and had asked for a stay in his hanging until the court’s verdict was issued.
Shafqat was scheduled to face the gallows on May 6 after an anti-terrorism court (ATC) had issued his death warrant on April 24. The April 24 warrant came after an executive inquiry by the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) concluded that Shafqat was not a minor at the time the crime he was convicted for was committed.
The court order issued today quoted the FIA inquiry report as saying that the evidence provided by Shafqat’s counsel to prove that he was a juvenile at the time when the crime was committed was false.
The Justice Project Pakistan (JPP), which was managing Shafqat’s defence, had filed a petition in the IHC expressing dissatisfaction over the FIA’s investigation into its client’s age.
Dr Tariq Hassan, the petitioner’s counsel, had pointed out that the Supreme Court in 2003 had dealt with an identical matter where a death-row convict was seeking benefit under the Juvenile Justice System Ordinance 2000. He said the apex court had held that only a judicial forum could determine the age of an accused.
Shafqat was working as a watchman in the sprawling, violent metropolis of Karachi in 2004 when a seven-year-old boy went missing from the neighbourhood. A few days later the boy’s family received calls from Shafqat’s mobile demanding a ransom of half a million rupees ($8,500 at the time), according to legal papers.
Shafqat was arrested and during his first interrogation admitted kidnapping and killing Umair, whose body was found in a plastic bag in a stream.
He was sentenced to death in 2004.
Shafqat later withdrew his confession, saying he had made it under duress, but the case came before an anti-terrorism court which sentenced him to death.
However, in late 2014 after the government lifted the moratorium on capital punishment, members of the civil society contended that Shafqat was a juvenile at the time of the incident.
Reintroducing the death penalty was part of Pakistan’s move to step up the fight against militants since a Taliban massacre at a school in Peshawar in December last year. Following the lifting of the moratorium, Shafqat had been due to face the noose on Jan 14 but the government halted the execution amid protests about his age and ordered an investigation.
He was then set to be executed on March 19 but a day before the sentencing civil society representatives gathered in front of the presidency against the order. The hanging was subsequently postponed for 72 hours and then for 30 days.
Also read: FIA inquiry concludes Shafqat ‘wasn’t a minor’
A third death warrant for Shafqat Hussain was issued on April 24 after an executive inquiry by the FIA concluded that he was not a minor at the time the crime was committed.
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