Khurshid Ali Khan stepped out of the Rawalpindi central jail, in 2011, to renew a life he hoped to start out afresh. After serving a sentence of 25 years, he was acquitted of the fees levelled in opposition to him and he got here to Lahore. However luck was nonetheless not on his aspect. Eight years after finishing his jail sentence for a case he was falsely implicated in, Khurshid nonetheless desperately struggles to construct that life he dreamed of. Harmless or not, shedding the stigma of being an ex-convict has to date hampered all his efforts to get an honest job to make ends meet.
The case which landed Khurshid in jail grew to become a high-profile one as, with the assistance of civil society, it introduced below scrutiny Pakistan’s demise penalty legal guidelines. However Khurshid’s title is never connected to the saga. It was his older brother Zulfiqar whose title was talked about in headlines and op-eds.
On a fateful day in 1998, Khurshid — then round 19 years outdated — and his elder brother, Zulfiqar, 28, had been attacked by two males whereas on their method to a village within the outskirts of Islamabad. Being a navy officer, Zulfiqar carried a gun, with which he shot on the robbers in self-defence. The brothers had been arrested and each had been charged with homicide. Zulfiqar’s confession said that solely he had fired the gun and that his youthful sibling was harmless. However corruption within the police and shortcomings within the justice system threw them each in Rawalpindi Central Jail.
For each Khurshid and Zulfiqar, life as they knew it was pretty much as good as over.
“Zulfiqar had confessed to the killing proper after being arrested,” Khurshid tells Eos. “The investigation officer took a bribe from us, saying they’ll let me go, however he had obtained the next bribe from the complainants for pinning us each for murders.”
“I used to be falsely charged with carrying a weapon after I’ve by no means even held a pistol in my life,” says Khurshid, now 40. (Khurshid did serve his full sentence however varied remissions allowed him to be freed in 13 years.)
After serving years in jail, even these ultimately acquitted step again right into a society unwilling to reintegrate them. As a substitute of having fun with freedom as soon as once more, they wrestle to regain not only a supply of earnings, however their integrity and self-respect
“We had been each nominated within the FIR, however the court docket awarded Zulfiqar a demise sentence upon his confession and despatched me to jail for 25 years on the premise of testimonies that I had killed a person. It was all unfaithful as a result of there was no person to witness the incident besides the 4 of us. My solely crime was being there with my brother…”
Ejaz Shah was incarcerated for 15 years and 4 months in a homicide case solely to be launched in 2016 when Supreme Courtroom decide Justice Asif Saeed Khosa dominated that Shah had been implicated in a fabricated case and that there was no proof to declare him the offender. He too has struggled to suit again into society.
Shah’s father was a councillor-level political determine of Sahiwal in an space which was infamous for crimes and hardened criminals. Within the early ‘90s, after his father received an election, his rivals all united in opposition to him within the subsequent elections. A few years later, two native males, Chaudhry Rehmat and Abid from his opponents’ aspect, had been murdered throughout a theft. The offender, a infamous prison often known as Kala, was sentenced to demise. The sentence lingered, so one evening in 2000, a grand panchayat (village council) was held to reconcile Rehmat’s household and his killer. The panchayat was being headed by Shah’s father and attended by MNAs and MPAs.
“Rehmat’s son, Inayat, who was a neighborhood drug peddler, despatched his son Sultan to simply hearth at and injure Kala to create a diversion within the panchayat in order that no compromise was reached and the killer was certainly hanged,” recollects Shah. “Sultan was a neighbour and a buddy, so he and I had been on our means after we encountered Aslam, who was associated to Kala, gathering folks for the panchayat. Sultan fired at Aslam to injure him, however he died on the spot. The homicide case was filed in opposition to me, my father and youthful brother on the grievance of none apart from Sultan. Later, after investigations, my father and brother had been absolved of the fees, whereas I used to be sentenced to demise below Part 302.
The most important duty for caring for a human being lies with the state, and governments have to be congnisant of the truth that former prisoners come out of jail with psychological and emotional baggage, but they deserve each alternative and probability to change into a good a part of society once more. As is the case with Khurshid and Shah up to now, they wrestle to seek out secure livelihoods and household lives alike.
A resident of Shakargarh, Khurshid had eight siblings, out of which one was murdered and one (Zulfiqar) hanged. His dad and mom have handed away, and he himself is now destitute. “The day I used to be despatched to jail, my life was completed. I used to be married and had a daughter proper earlier than I used to be sentenced — she’s finding out today. However I needed to divorce my spouse. My household has deserted me as a result of I’m jobless and I don’t actually have a place to reside. That’s how merciless our society is.”
Shah now lives with considered one of his brothers in Multan, whereas the remainder of his siblings are scattered throughout Punjab. His household doesn’t personal a home and he can’t even return to their hometown Sahiwal for the concern that his opponents, who’ve grown stronger over time, may homicide him. “Presently, I work in a workshop and solely earn a 25 per cent fee if and when there may be work, there’s no fastened wage,” says Shah. “I’m over 45 and a former convict and in all these years in jail my physique has additionally slowed down. Just lately, my spouse and I had an enormous argument as a result of I can’t present primary requirements for my household.”
Khurshid’s brother Zulfiqar’s case was broadly coated within the media; his execution was stayed round two dozen occasions earlier than he was lastly hanged in Could 2015. Throughout his time in jail, Zulfiqar taught some 400 fellow inmates, who obtained levels (FA, BA, Masters) whereas in jail. He was ultimately hanged in 2015. Khurshid, too, earned a BA diploma and realized just a few vocational abilities throughout his imprisonment. He was launched after he was acquitted of fees. “If I meet that investigation officer right this moment,” says Khurshid, “and he swears on the Quran that he recovered a pistol from me, I’ll spend one other 25 years in jail.”
In jail, apart from studying the right way to weave carpets, Khurshid labored as a clerk and had firsthand expertise of noting down the final needs of death-row prisoners and witnessing the depressing situations that they had been saved in. “They’re trapped in a tiny cell with virtually no services. It’s darkish with nothing and nobody round them. They’re solely given a replica of the Quran to maintain them busy. There’s hardly any water for the bathroom and even the shalwar drawstring is seized in order that they don’t hold themselves with it. What would an individual be pondering when he is aware of he’d be lifeless within the morning? When he walks 20 steps to the gallows, I’m positive his entire life flashes in entrance of his eyes as he takes the ultimate steps,” he says.
The day I used to be despatched to jail, my life was completed,” says Khurshid. “I used to be married and had a daughter proper earlier than I used to be sentenced — she’s finding out today. However I needed to divorce my spouse. My household has deserted me as a result of I’m jobless and I don’t actually have a place to reside. That’s how merciless our society is.”
Lack of correct medical care usually ends in inmates’ deaths for which no person is held accountable, Khurshid claims. “If somebody has a coronary heart assault, they’ll name a helper who’ll arrive after half an hour no matter how urgently a prisoner wants medical care. He’ll stroll a kilometre to get the lock-up keys, take the inmate to a hospital the place docs are often absent. A health care provider can be referred to as in and by the point he/she lastly arrives the particular person has often died. A prisoner’s demise in jail is akin to a canine on the street. Nobody is blamed or booked in any case.”
Primary facilities aren’t the one factor unavailable inside prisons, he says. Corruption holds sway in case of even minor duties. “All of it is determined by how a lot cash you possibly can spend on bribes to get higher services inside jails,” he says. “The extra you spend, the extra snug you’ll be. A prisoner who has been given rigorous imprisonment can keep away from working by paying bribes. Folks promote medicine additionally. I as soon as learn in a newspaper easy superintendent of jail had constructed an enormous home in Mannequin City when his wage wouldn’t be greater than 50,000 rupees to 60,000 rupees a month. It grew to become an enormous scandal and he was suspended.”