Free Press Journal

In shoes of dead man walking in Pakistan

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Islamabad:How does a condemned person feel in the 24 hours before execution? In Pakistan, one of the world’s top executioners, an unprecedented artistic performance lays bare what happens when a life is ended behind prison walls. The project, dubbed “No Time to Sleep” , saw actor Sarmad Khoosat embody “Prisoner Z”, locked in isolation for his last hours in this world, in a live-streamed 24-hour performance which ended at the stroke of midnight on Wednesday.

His story is inspired by a real case, that of an inmate named Zulfiqar Ali Khan, who spent 17 years on death row before being executed in 2015. The project was launched by the Justice Project Pakistan (JPP), an organisation which seeks to defend the most vulnerable prisoners. Its goal is to show “the sheer humanity of how, what a person goes through… what it actually takes up front and close when the state decides to take a human life,” said Sarah Belal, JPP director and the lawyer for Zulfiqar Ali Khan.


As the performance began at 12am on Wednesday, Z sat in his cell, faithfully reconstructed in a Lahore studio, and awaited his final hour. Cameras broadcast his movements in real time on Dawn newspaper’s website. Through them, Pakistanis watched Z talking to his guard, reading the Koran, and receiving the last, heartbreaking visit from his family.

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