ISLAMABAD: The execution Shafqat Hussain has been postponed for an indefinite period.
President Mamnoon Hussain shelved the hanging on the request of Federal Interior Minister, Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan.
“I want to investigate the case myself,” the sources quoted the minister as saying.
Earlier, the family of a Hussain, condemned to death as a teenager, made an emotional appeal for mercy Friday, saying a court order for his execution next week had “shattered their hopes”.
Last week, an anti-terrorism court in Karachi gave instructions to hang Shafqat Hussain, convicted of killing a seven-year-old boy in 2004, on Thursday March 19.
Hussain’s case has triggered outrage from rights campaigners, who complain he did not get a fair trial and was only 15 at the time of the killing.
His mother Makhni Begum, who last saw Hussain in jail in 2005, insisted he was innocent in an emotional interview with AFP in Kashmir, where the family are from.
“All my hopes are shattered today. I have no faith on the justice of this country,” she said, tears rolling down her cheeks.
“It was my last desire to see my son but now this hope is also dying. Now I am pleading with God for my son’s life.”
Hussain 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 Hussain’s mobile demanding a ransom of half a million rupees ($8,500 at the time), according to legal papers.
Hussain was arrested and during his first interrogation admitted kidnapping and killing Umair, whose body was found in a plastic bag in a stream.
Hussain 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.
Begum said Hussain, the youngest of seven children, had run away from home to escape grinding poverty, hoping to make a better life for himself in Karachi, only for disaster to strike soon afterwards.
“One of our relatives called us from Karachi and let us know that our son is in Karachi and has been in jail in a murder case,” she said.
– ‘He should be pardoned’ –
Hussain had been due to face the noose on January 14 but the government halted the execution amid protests about his age, and ordered an investigation.
Jail officials said Thursday the interior ministry had rejected the age plea and a fresh death warrant had been issued.
Begum and her 92-year-old husband Shahzullah, who has been paralysed down one side for 20 years, live in a two-room shack in a slum in Muzaffarabad, the main town of Pakistan-administered Kashmir.
Hussain’s elder brother Manzoor Ahmad, who lives with his parents, insisted his brother was innocent.
“I appeal to higher government officials and judiciary not to execute our brother. He should be pardoned — he was a juvenile and he did not commit any crime,” he told AFP.
“Terrorism will not end but will flourish if innocent people are punished.”
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 the northwestern city of Peshawar in December.
The United Nations, the European Union, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have called on Pakistan to re-impose its moratorium on the death penalty.
Two men convicted of rape and murder were hanged in the eastern city of Faisalabad on Friday, bringing to 27 the total executed since the government rescinded its ban.
On Thursday EU diplomats raised the issue of capital punishment — and Hussain’s case specifically — in meetings with Pakistani officials focused on trade and human rights.
The EU granted Pakistan the much coveted “GSP+” status in 2014, giving the country access to highly favourable trade tariffs, conditional on Pakistan enacting certain commitments on human rights. (AFP)