Shafqat Hussain’s family celebrates a stay order against his execution, as future of alleged murderer remains murky.
The President of Pakistan issued a last-minute stay order against the execution of 23-year-old Shafqat Hussain late on Wednesday night, raising his family’s hopes that the case could be reopened.
“There were only tears and misery in our home; nobody could stop crying. How can I tell you how happy this has made me?” said Manzoor Ahmed, Hussain’s elder brother, who is based in Muzaffarabad. He said that two of their siblings, Abdul Majeed and Abdul Zaman, had been at the Central Jail in Karachi where Hussain was due to be hanged when a senior police official told them the execution had been postponed.
“They almost collapsed, then ran out of the jail and called us. With that phone call, a shadow was lifted from our house,” said Ahmed. “It was like Eid had arrived,” he added.
Makhani Begum, Hussain’s mother, is no less thrilled. “I became 30 years younger overnight. God has given more happiness than I can handle or deserve,” she told Newsweek.
Hussain allegedly murdered a seven-year-old child, Umair, in 2001. Three years later, based on a confession reportedly extracted through torture, an Anti-Terrorism Court sentenced him to death. Subsequent appeals for mercy were rejected by the Sindh High Court in 2006, the Supreme Court in 2007, and then-president Asif Ali Zardari in 2012.
Hussain’s family remains hopeful that the government will reopen the case during the 72-hour clemency granted by President Mamnoon Hussain. “It’s because of the noise that the media helped us make that the government listened to us. We are a poor family so all we can offer is our gratitude,” said Ahmed. “I am sure God will be merciful and that He will save Shafqat,” Makhani Begum added.
Maya Foa, director of international human rights organization Reprieve’s death penalty team, issued a statement praising the stay order shortly after it was issued. “This decision to stay the execution of a man tortured into ‘confessing’ to a crime when he was merely a child is hugely welcome. It is, however, a shame that it took an outcry and the weight of civil society to push the minister [Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan] into doing the right thing.”