Short Documentary Film – #2 – Executed Juvenile Death Row Prisoner Shafqat Hussain

Shafqat Hussain was arrested and sentenced to death in 2004. According to Shafqat’s family, he was 14 years old at the time of his offence. Shafqat was arrested on suspicion of involvement in the kidnap of a child, who lived in a building where he worked as a guard and caretaker. Upon arrest he has subjected to brutal torture to get him to confess to the crime, of which he has always maintained he is completely innocent. Shafqat has described torture including brutal beatings with sticks and fists, electrocution, and being burnt with cigarettes by police.

Shafqat was convicted and sentenced to death on 1st September 2004. His appeal to the Sindh High Court was decided on 15th May 2006. In the course of this appeal, the High Court confirmed that Shafqat’s “confession” which he has always maintained was extracted through torture, was the primary basis for his conviction. Shafqat made a further appeal to the Supreme Court but the appeal was rejected on 8th October 2007. A review petition requesting review of the case on the basis of Shafqat’s age at the time of the conviction was then submitted, but this was dismissed by the Supreme Court as having been raised out of time in an order dated 18th December 2007.

Following the resumption of executions in Pakistan, Shafqat was issued with a warrant for execution on January 13th 2015. In the face of international outcry about the case, Shafqat’s execution was halted by Minister of Interior Chaudhry Nisar on

5th January 2015. In an announcement in parliament, Chaudhry Nisar cited information of Shafqat’s juvenility provided by civil society as reason for the stay. He also announced that an investigation would be conducted to verify Shafqat’s age. But no investigation into the case was conducted, but a new warrant for Shafqat’s execution was nonetheless issued and Shafqat was scheduled to be hanged on 19th March 2015. Following the efforts of Shafqat’s legal team, and interventions from the UN Special Procedures and others, Shafqat’s execution was once again stayed just hours before the execution was due to take place. Following the stay of execution, the Ministry of Interior appointed a three member investigation team from the Federal Investigation Authority to investigate the circumstances of the case. On 20th April 2015 it was announced to the media that this inquiry had concluded, and that based primarily on the trial records, it had found that Shafqat had not been a juvenile at the time of his alleged offence. Shaft was eventually executed on 4th August 2015.

The second of four short documentary films I shot last Fall are finally being released for public viewing. Produced in collaboration with the researchers at Justice Project Pakistan (JPP), and the editors and designers at New Media Advocacy Project (N-MAP) in New York, these films highlight the miscarriages of justice that continue to plague the Pakistani capital punishment processes. I am also working on a longer feature documentary on the same subject, which I hope to complete in the next couple of months.

These short documentary films add to my ongoing project Law & Disorder: A People’s History of the Law In Pakistan. I am working on two new essays, both of which are ready as drafts but need some serious editing. The first discusses the history of capital punishment in Pakistan, and its connections to the introduction and experimentation with capital punishment during the British colonial administration in India. Pakistan’s penal code still retains many of the core tenets of the (British) India Penal Code first introduced in the mid-19th century. The second essay looks at the ways in which the pre-colonial Sharia systems of jurisprudence were re-interpreted and modified to serve the interests of the modern colonial and post-colonial nation-state.

As always, each essay has me working with material far beyond my current knowledge, requiring extensive research and what can only be described as many re-readings of texts. But, I plow ahead and so does this vast project.  

The remaining two films will be released in the coming days. 

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