On Tuesday, while Shafqat Hussain’s lawyers were preparing arguments to be presented before a three member panel of the Supreme Court – headed by the Chief Justice, Nasiul Mulk himself – to seek a stay in his execution and open a judicial enquiry into his age at the time of conviction, Aftab Bahadur, another death row inmate who was convicted at the young age of 15, was preparing himself to be executed without much unnecessary ado the following day. On Wednesday, the SC rejected Shafqat Hussain’s plea, while Aftab Bahadur was executed in Kot Lakhpath Jail, Lahore. Barring extraordinary intervention by the President on Shafqat’s behalf, it seems that both cases are destined to end in the same manner; despite the huge contrast in how their post-conviction stories played out. One reached the highest echelons of Pakistani executive and judiciary, while the other was summarily denied appeal and a chance of reprieve. Yet both cases are indicative of the dramatic rise in executions – which already number at 157 in 2015 – and the injustice it entails; the gulf between the treatment of both cases also shows how the government has approached the issue of mistrials amongst the death row population in a piecemeal and haphazard manner – a fault that partly rests with the organisations fighting on behalf of the convicts.

Both Hussain and Bahadur were victims of police brutality; their confessions were forced through torture, making them inadmissible as proper evidence. Their young age at the time of conviction also stands out as a breach of national and international law. While these cases are obvious instances on mistrials and prime candidates for review, the government in its haste to whittle down the large backlog of executions has steamrolled ahead without proper reassessment. Instead the government is forced to deal with individualised clemency appeals, scattered review appeals and consistent public pressure; all of which depends on the amount of public support a particular case can generate, not which has a stronger case on merit. Amnesty International estimates there are at least 800 individuals awaiting execution who were convicted while they were juveniles – Hussain and Bahadur were represented by volunteer law firms, the rest have no such luxury. If the government plans to go ahead with the misguided plan of continuing execution, it must at least institute a review body that can examine the facts of the case and determine if there is a prima facie mistrial. NGOs and other human rights organisation must also band together and push for such a holistic step, rather than fire fighting individual mistrials.