Category: Mirza Tahir Hussain


Mirza Tahir Hussain is to have his death sentence commuted by President Musharraf (click source). This is great news. However, questions remain.

Why did it take Musharraf so long?

Will Mirza receive any compensation for the eighteen years of his life that were taken from him on the strength of an unsafe conviction under a dubious legal system (Sharia Law)?

Why was it eighteen years before his case came to the attention of the media and the UK political establishment?

When will state sponsored murder be universally abolished?

The long wait for “justice”

December 1988 — Mirza-Tahir Hussain, 18, flies from Leeds to Pakistan, where he is arrested after death of taxi driver near Rawalpindi. He claims that he shot driver in self-defence.

September 1989 — A sessions court in Islamabad sentences him to death.

November 1992 — The High Court orders a retrial.

April 1994 — A sessions court in Islamabad sentences him to life. 

May 1996 — The High Court acquits him of murder but a month later refers the case to the Federal Sharia Court.

May 1998 — The Sharia court sentences him to death by two votes to one.

December 2003 — The Supreme Sharia Court of Pakistan rejects the appeal.

May 2006 — President Musharraf issues the first of three stays of execution. The last expires on October 1.

October 26 — Ramadan and Eid end, meaning Hussain can be hanged at any time.

November 15 — Reprieved.

Yesterday (October 18) the session judge in the case of Mirza Tahir Hussain issued a fresh warrant for the Leeds man’s execution. According to Adiala jail authorities Mirza’s family were informed that he would hang at 06:30 am November 1st, a date which would have coincided with a visit to Pakistan by a member of the British royal family.

Today, in response to a plea for clemency by Prince Charles, the man has been granted a further stay of execution (his fourth). He will not now be executed before 31 December.

His brother Amjad, speaking to the BBC, expressed his anger at the decision: “Pakistan has no due regard for the representations that have been made. It’s like saying to my brother ‘Live to die another day’. It’s murder by a thousand cuts.

“They’re not going to execute my brother while Mr Musharraf takes his Royal Highness to dinner, but after that he will execute him, maybe a month or two months later… It is a continuation of the torture and the agony. It is not a solution.”

Under article 45 of Pakistan’s constitution the President has the power to pardon mirza but has refused to do this, in spite of his self confessed doubts regarding the safety of the conviction.

By not bringing the matter to a positive conclusion at this time, Musharraf throws away a timely opportunity to show the world that Islamic governments are capable of compassion and justice. Simply delaying the execution one more time is an act of terrible cruelty both to Mirza and his family.

Liberal Democrat Mep Liz Lynne said on 10 October at the World Day Against the Death Penalty that Musharraf had “heard the collective voice of Europe during his recent visits to Brussels and London”. When she met with him privately she told him “in no uncertain terms, that the carrying out of this execution would cast a shadow over the reputation of Pakistan within the EU, as it would clearly represent a rare combination of excessive cruelty and profound injustice.”

It seems the “terms” were not “certain” enough. I wonder how much more certain they would be if the man suffering the injustice was a white European. 

Since my previous post on Mirza Tahir Hussain I have learned that on ITV’s The Sunday Edition yesterday President Pervez Musharraf told Andrea Catherwood that he was unable to intervene in the Leeds man’s case, saying: “I am not a dictator, I cannot violate a court judgement, whether you like the court or not.”

There are lines of hope, however (in bold print), in the transcript:

ANDREA CATHERWOOD
Your book is trying to change the perceptions about Pakistan and to show it as a modern 21st century country. There is the case of Mirza Tahir Hussain, a British Pakistani who is on death row, did you talk to Tony Blair about that?

MUSHARRAF
He spoke to me about it.

ANDREA CATHERWOOD
And are you able to pardon him?

MUSHARRAF
The law does not permit that. Would Tony Blair be able to do anything against your law?

ANDREA CATHERWOOD
In the past you have been able to pardon people personally.

MUSHARRAF
No. I have never pardoned anyone who has been passed a death sentence. I have never pardoned a single one. Now we have to look into the legality of the issue and that is what we are trying to do. I cannot violate the law, just like no other leader here can violate your law. Whay should anyone expect me to violate Pakistan’s law?

ANDREA CATHERWOOD
We’re going to be talking to his family a little later in the programme. What would you say to them?

MUSHARRAF
Well I would say to them that I sympathise with them certainly and I wouldn’t like any person to die but I have to abide by certain laws and we are looking into what can be done.

ANDREA CATHERWOOD
Many people in the world see him as an innocent man, indeed your high court.

MUSHARRAF
The problem in the west is that they consider every developing country as a lawless wild west. And while laws cannot be violated in their countries that laws can be violated in these developing third rate contries, you can violate any laws and there are no courts — there are Kangaroo courts, lets leave that aside. there are laws in our countries, we abide by those laws and we also don’t want to violate those laws. I cannot violate a court judgement, whether you like the court or not, it’s a court’s judgement and I stick to the law. And we need to find ways of how to handle this situation. I am not a dictator, where I can violate laws, violate the constitution, violate the laws of Pakistan. That cannot be done.

Mirza’s brother, immediately after the interview, which was recorded, said live that the President’s words “beggared belief”, and that Musharraf could pardon his brother if he so chose:

“He is empowered by the Pakistan constitution — it is nothing to do with dictatorship.”

Article 45 of the Constitution of the Islam Republic of Pakistan, 1973, states that:

“The President shall have power to grant pardon, reprieve and respite, and to remit, suspend or commute any sentence passed by any court, tribunal or other authority.”

Hussain was to be hanged at 0500 BST yesterday morning but the sentence was not carried out — reportedly because it is Ramadan, the Muslim holy month.

The eleventh hour

In a few hours (October 1), British Time, it will be my birthday. It may also be the last day on earth for Mirza Tahir Hussain.

It seems appeals to Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf during his presidential visit to Britain have fallen on deaf ears.

Musharraf alone has the power to commute Mirza’s sentence but he “brushed past” demonstrators in Oxford today and refused to comment on the Leeds man’s case.

At a meeting in Brussels earlier this month, Liberal Democrat Euro MP Sajjad Karim, Chair of the Friends of Pakistan group, said:

“I, and the whole of the UK Liberal Democrat delegation, have been leading a European Parliament campaign to prevent what would be a gross miscarriage of justice.

“We have garnered the support of the European Parliament President, Josep Borrell, to see to it that, after spending half his life on death row, Mirza Tahir Hussain is granted clemency. It is the eleventh hour and time is running out to end the suffering of Mirza Tahir Hussain and for his distraught family and all of us who have been working tirelessly to secure his release.”

In response President Musharaff said:

“I have received those pleas and appreciate your concern for this individual. You must understand that I have to work within the constraints of the law, but I am willing to find a solution to this case that goes over and above what the courts are able to do.”

As time runs out for Mirza those words sound increasingly hollow. If I had faith in a supernatural God I would praying to him right now to intervene and save this man.

Sadly, I have no such faith. I do, however, believe that Mirza will survive. Musharraf needs a “distraction” from a couple of “higher profile” issues at this time. Perhaps an act of clemency towards the man from Leeds will provide it? 

Leeds man Mirza Tahir Hussain, sentenced to death under Sharia law 18 years ago, has been granted a further stay of execution until 1 October.

The article below, which I wrote and first published in May of this year, provides a background to the case.

It was nearly dusk when Mirza Hussain reached Rawalpindi.

He had arrived in Karachi the previous day and had stayed overnight there, setting off before noon to visit relatives.

The 18 year old British-Pakistani was a long way from his home in Leeds, where he had lived since migrating to England with his parents as a boy.

He had been educated and brought up there and had trained in the British Territorial Army.

His ultimate destination was Buhbar, a village in Chakwal district, about 56 miles south of Islamabad.

Mirza had been born there and he looked forward to spending Christmas with members of his family, some of whom he had not seen in many years.

The only way to get there from Rawalpindi, however, was by taxi and, initially, he could not find a driver willing to take him.

Tired from his journey, and apprehensive at the prospect of having to spend the night in a strange city, he eventually became involved in a conversation with Janshir Khan, who agreed to take him to Buhbar for 500 rupees.

It was a ride that was to change the young man’s life forever.

As they approached the village of Mandra, Khan allegedly stopped the car and made a sexual proposition to Mirza.

When the youth refused, the driver produced a gun and assaulted him.

In the ensuing scuffle the firearm went off and Khan was shot.

Mirza kept his head and did what any innocent person would have done had the incident occurred in England.

He drove to the nearest police station.

But, as he was soon to discover to his cost, the police in Pakistan do not operate the way they do in England and Mirza was immediately arrested.

When Khan later died, the boy was charged with his murder, tried, convicted and, in September 1989, sentenced to death by the Session Court.

Upon appeal in November 1992 the High Court in Lahore revoked the death penalty in the light of allegations that the police had fabricated evidence and introduced false witnesses.

The case was returned to the lower court for retrial but Hussain was again convicted.

This time he received a life sentence.

A second appeal was made to the High Court and on May 20 1996 he was acquitted.

Pakistan, however, operates a dual legal system; as well as the secular court, which acquitted him, there is also the Islamic, or Sharia, judiciary.

The following week, as he awaited his release, the case was referred to the Federal Shariat Court on the grounds that the offence with which he had been charged – “haraahbah, or robbery with murder – came under its jurisdiction.

On August 1998 the Shariat Court found
Tahir Mirza Hussain guilty by a split 2-1 verdict and he was again sentenced to death, despite the fact that the system under which he was tried requires an eye-witness or a confession, and the prosecution had neither.

Abdul Waheed Siddiqui, the dissenting judge, said that Hussain was “an innocent, raw youth”, who knew nothing of “the mischief and filth in which the police of this country is engrossed”, and that the police had fabricated evidence in “a shameless manner”.

Mirza has been detained in Islamabad’s notorious Adiala jail for 18 years and was due to be hanged on June 1, two days before his 36th birthday.

After direct appeals by the UK Government and the European Parliament, Pakistan’s President Pervez Musharraf has intervened and a fresh stay of execution has been granted, allowing the condemned man’s family another month to negotiate a “blood money” deal.

However, even if that is possible, Mirza will remain in prison indefinitely.

Kahn’s family have reportedly rejected a previous offer of £18000 made six years ago. (Don Galloway 27 May 2006)

In response to news of his brother’s latest reprieve, Amjad Hussain said:

“While this further stay of one month gives me and my family a little relief, it is not enough and in many ways it is extending the uncertainty and agony my brother and all of us have now lived with for 18 years.

“We did not ask for this stay. It shows that my brother’s case has got the attention of the Pakistan authorities, but it seems they are still undecided as to whether President Musharraf will step in and stop an innocent man being executed or whether they will let this barbaric punishment go ahead.

“My brother did not commit the crime of murder that he has been convicted of. His trial was unfair and his detention in Pakistan for the last 18 years has destroyed all our lives. Tony Blair must intervene directly now, and I implore President Musharraf to end our agony and commute the sentence immediately.”

Amnesty International UK Campaigns Director Tim Hancock added:

“This stay is not enough. It does not address the facts that there are serious doubts about the safety of Mirza Tahir Hussain’s conviction and that he still faces execution in a matter of weeks.

“We will continue to press the Pakistani authorities, for as long as it takes, until we know that Mirza Tahir Hussain will not, at any time, be executed. And we expect the UK Government to do the same.”

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