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Plan to Execute Paralyzed Prisoner Called 'A New Low' for Pakistan

The Pakistani government is coming under fire over the scheduled executions of two inmates next week, including one who is permanently disabled.
Photo by Khuram Parvez/Reuters

The government of Pakistan is coming under fire over its plans to execute two inmates next week. One of the inmates is disabled, the other claims he was a teenager at the time he was arrested. Critics say both sentences violate Pakistan's constitution.

The first man, 43-year-old Abdul Basit, was paralyzed from the waist down five years ago after contracting tuberculous meningitis in prison. According to a report conducted by a government-appointed medical board and obtained by Basit's lawyers at Justice Project Pakistan, he remains "bed bound with urinary and fecal incontinence."


There is, the board adds, "almost no chance of recovery."

Basit, whose execution is now set for Tuesday, was originally scheduled to be hanged on July 28. The Lahore High Court stayed his execution after Basit's lawyers argued that his sentence would would constitute "cruel and unusual punishment" and violate the "fundamental right to human dignity" protected by the country's constitution.

Related: Three Countries Were Responsible for 70 Percent of the World's Executions in 2014

"Hanging a man who is unable even to stand would be a new low for Pakistan's death penalty system, and a clear violation of the country's constitution," Maya Foa, director of the death penalty team at the international human rights organization Reprieve, said in a statement.

Lawyers for the second inmate, Ansar Iqbal, argue he was 15 when he and a friend were arrested on charges that they murdered their neighbor 16 years ago.

The execution of juveniles is illegal in Pakistan. Iqbal's lawyers have produced school records and birth certificate that indicate he was either 14 or 15 years old at the time of the murder, but judges have refused to examine the evidence, saying that it was submitted too late. Instead, the courts are relying on the arresting officer's estimate that Iqbal was in his early 20s at the time.

Iqbal and Basit are just two of more than 8,000 inmates presently sitting on death row in Pakistan. The country reinstituted the death penalty in December of last year in an effort to crack down on violent militants. It has executed 240 people in the months since.

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