Family of Pakistani death row prisoner told to “bring a shroud” to his hanging

January 30, 2015

Image of a man tying a noose

The relatives of a man set to be wrongfully executed in Pakistan have been given an official notice of his hanging next week – and told to bring a shroud and a gurney to dispose of his body.

Shoaib Sarwar was convicted of murder in Pakistan 17 years ago, following a trial process which saw a number of irregularities. His hanging, scheduled for Tuesday, 3rd February, will mark the first execution in Pakistan of someone who not only was convicted of non-terrorist offences, but was not even convicted in a terrorism court. There are concerns that his hanging could lead to plans to execute more than 8,000 other prisoners convicted of non-terrorist offences on Pakistan’s death row, which is the largest in the world.

Resuming executions in late 2014 after a longstanding moratorium on the death penalty, the Pakistani government announced it would hand death warrants only to those convicted as terrorists under the country’s flawed anti-terror legislation. Mr Sarwar’s situation is unique, however, as the authorities do not consider him to be a terrorist, or his case to be in any way terrorism-related.

A notice of execution issued to the family of Mr Sarwar today told them to come to his prison in Rawalpindi on Monday for a final visit. The document instructed them to bring both a gurney and shroud to take his body away after the hanging.

The decision to execute Mr Sarwar has caused confusion among authorities in Pakistan; a document filed to the court this week by the Superintendent of Rawalpindi Jail, where Mr Sarwar is being held, raised questions about the planned execution in light of the Government’s stated policy of executing only ‘terrorists’. The court dismissed the filing, however, and ordered the execution to go ahead.

Commenting, Kate Higham, an investigator at legal charity Reprieve said: “The rush to execute Shoaib Sarwar, despite an official policy that would expressly forbid his hanging, is shocking. It flies in the face of the Pakistani Government’s claim that they are only executing ‘terrorists’. The issuing of grisly instructions to Mr Sarwar’s desperate family merely shows the terrible reality of this resumption of the death penalty – and the risk to the 8,000 people on Pakistan’s death row. The international community must tell Pakistan without delay that this opening of the floodgates is unacceptable.”

ENDS

Notes to editors

1. For further information, please contact Reprieve’s press office: +44 (0) 207 553 8140

2. On December 18, 2014, The Express Tribune quoted Nawaz Sharif’s office as saying that “The prime minister has approved abolishment of the moratorium on the execution of death penalty in terrorism-related cases.”