Islamabad: Pakistan’s Supreme Court today refused to set up a commission to determine the age of a man sentenced to death for killing a boy when he was reportedly a minor, clearing the way for his execution which was postponed four times over his age.
Shafqat Hussain, who was arrested and convicted in 2004 for kidnapping and killing a seven-year-old boy, was to be hanged yesterday but the execution was delayed at the last moment as the Supreme Court had accepted his petition to determine his age.
After two-days of hearing, a three-member bench of the apex court headed by Chief Justice Nasirul Mulk dismissed the appeal to set up a commission to determine his age. Mulk was reported as saying that the court had already addressed all legal matters and the issue of age being technical could only be evaluated by the government.
“Sorry, the petition is dismissed. This matter has to come to an end someday,” Mulk said. “This court has already dismissed the plea regarding age. For the court, the case has already been closed when the review petition was dismissed.” The ruling clears another obstacle to Hussain’s hanging. It was no clear when a new death warrant would be issued.
Hussain’s lawyer said two new mercy petitions had been sent to the president. Civil society groups allege that Hussain was of 14- year-old when he was arrested and convicted in Karachi. Under Pakistan’s juvenile laws, a person cannot be hanged for crimes committed before 18 years of age.
His legal team insists that earlier defence attorneys did not plead the case competently, and the issue of age was overlooked in the past. He was to be executed two months ago but was granted a last-minute reprieve and Interior Minister Nisar Ali Khan had ordered an inquiry into the matter to establish the veracity of the lawyers’ contention that he was a minor at the time of sentencing.
An executive inquiry last month concluded that he was 23- year-old when he committed the crime. Death warrants were issued for the third time after the inquiry but a day before his execution on May 6, the Islamabad High Court stayed his hanging. Later, the court dismissed petition to determine his age and the death warrant were on June 1 to hang him on June 9.
His lawyer challenged the verdict of the Islamabad High Court in the Supreme Court which also threw out the petition.
Shafqat was originally due to face the noose on January 14. But the government halted the execution amid protests about his age, and ordered an investigation. Amnesty International and UN rights groups had urged authorities to halt Shafqat’s execution.