Why Zulfiqar Ali should not die

Why Zulfiqar Ali should not die By Zubeida Mustafa
Dawn, 20 May, 2009

ZULFIQAR Ali, a prisoner on death row in Adiala jail since April 1998, is to be hanged. There is confusion about the date.

Since September 2008 when President Asif Zardari rejected Zulfiqar’s final mercy petition, the condemned prisoner has been granted three stays of execution. The last expired on May 6.

But Zulfikar Ali’s case calls for immediate attention. True there are over 7,000 prisoners on death row in Pakistan. True they all deserve to be taken note of because there has been a strong opinion building up in the country against capital punishment as has been witnessed worldwide. Today 133 countries have abolished the death penalty in law or in practice.

Why I add my voice to the pleas from many quarters for Zulfiqar’s amnesty is because he is a man who deserves to live. In a country where good teachers are a rarity it would be a pity if a man who loves teaching is sent to the gallows. I may not even have known about Zulfiqar and how he has been dodging the noose had Reprieve (a London-based NGO working for condemned prisoners) represented by three determined lawyers, Sultana Noon, Sarah Belal and Nadia Rehman, not worked so hard to collect the facts of the case and prepare petitions to obtain a stay of execution.

A man who has been so devoted to teaching as Zulfiqar has been even while his life hung in the balance, must surely have something in him that should not be allowed to die. In the 11 years that he has been behind bars, he has improved his own academic qualifications and has gone on to educate hundreds of prisoners — some of them were totally illiterate before their encounter with the man now called ‘the educator’ in Adiala jail. His performance has been stellar: 12 have graduated, 23 have passed their Intermediate while 18 have done their matriculation thanks to his tutoring.

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