Rather than challenging the inherent cruelty and injustice of capital punishment, it seems that the state has embarked upon an unyielding spree to execute hordes of prisoners-ones that have not seen any semblance of justice towards them for decades. The story of Abdul Basit echoes the appalling state of Pakistan’s criminal justice system and reaffirms that capital punishment means those without the capital get the punishment. Whilst the wealthy and influential escape through the loopholes, the poor, disabled, mentally ill, and the most vulnerable just like him, are rushed to the gallows – celebrated as an indicator of its success in eradicating terrorism. The state is apathetic to the violations of their human dignity, and it has become evident with Basit, where despite his permanent disability and humiliating imprisonment, Abdul Basit faces execution on Tuesday, 22nd September 2015.

Abdul Basit was convicted for the murder of another man during a heated altercation in 2009. The deceased was a third year law student, the younger brother of a noted local advocate. No lawyer from Okara would take the case, and even a respected advocate from Faisalabad came under pressure, not to represent the Petitioner. Abdul Basit has always claimed his innocence, asserting that Asif Nadeem was the one who first offered violence. It was on the basis of evidence given by just two relatives of the deceased that Abdul Basit was convicted of murder.

The police investigation reeked of corruption (Basit’s family was too poor to pay the bribe asked by the police) and implanted evidence: there was a gun allegedly found at the scene, but the police officer did not take the fundamental step of writing down its serial number and there was no ballistics evidence to show that Basit’s gun was the one used in the killing. Nevertheless, Basit was sentenced to death and his subsequent appeals to the High Court and Supreme Court were rejected.

In 2010, Abdul Basit was transferred to Central Jail, Faisalabad. Later that year, the prisoners in Faisalabad jail rioted against the torturous practices of the jail administration especially, the Superintendents. Several prisoners died in the riots, and many more injured. The Superintendent was suspended and the new Superintendent, confined most of the prisoners to the “punishment wing” in Central Jail. For, months, Abdul Basit was held in the filthy and unhygienic conditions of the punishment ward where disease is rampant. While there, he began complaining of severe headache and an extremely high temperature. His family narrated that his headache became so severe that he would scream and bang his head against the wall for any form of relief. His anguish was only met with apathy by jail authorities despite repeated pleas from his family. It was discovered later that based on his symptoms Abdul Basit had contracted Tuberculosis (TB) meningitis in prison. Despite the knowledge that TB, if left untreated, could result in permanent damage, the jail authorities denied him any access to the requisite healthcare and simply confined him to a solitary cell to prevent an outbreak. It was only after Abdul Basit succumbed to a month of indelible pain and lost consciousness that he was transferred to DHQ hospital in Faisalabad.

At DHQ hospital, Faisalabad, it was discovered that his condition was so critical, that he fell into a coma for 3 weeks. Eventually his family was informed that as a result of neglect and a lack of timely treatment he had contracted Tuberculosis (TB) meningitis. Over the course of thirteen months his condition plummeted – he became paralyzed from the waist down and would suffer from long-term consequences of spinal cord permanently. Abdul Basit would never walk again, and lost all control of his basic bodily functions permanently. In 2011, a Medical Board at Services Hospital Lahore deemed that management of his medical condition “would be very difficult in jail”. In April 2012 it was established that he was suffering from paraplegia and long term complications of spinal atrophy. More recently in August, a new medical board was convened at the order of the Lahore High Court, where it was concluded that Basit was “permanently disabled…He is likely to remain bed-bound for the rest of his life.”

Under Rule 107 (iv) of the Prison Rules (1978) ill health is a ground for clemency from execution. However, despite this, the President of Pakistan in January 2013 rejected a petition from Abdul Basit’s family requesting to commutation of his death sentence to life imprisonment on the basis of his disability.

On 28th July 2015 the Lahore High Court accepted a writ petition challenging Basit’s execution on the basis that it would constitute cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, contravening the Pakistan Prison Rules and violating Basit’s fundamental rights as protected by the Constitution of Pakistan and international law. This was made clear with the Pakistan Prison Rules 1978, a binding statutory legislation, which governs the manner and procedure to be adopted at the time of executing a condemned prisoner. Here, rule 356 (Regulation of drops) has been specifically designed in order to avoid the possibility of a botched execution and contains procedures that simply cannot be carried out in respect of a disabled prisoner.

The prison authorities once again showed their indifference and incompetence when they appeared in court on 1st September, unable to give exact details of the procedures they intended to use, but instead suggesting that there were a number of possibilities, including hanging Basit from his wheelchair or from a stool placed on the gallows. This led to the Lahore High Court dismissing Basit’s petition, vehemently stating that “international laws should be set aside”.

Abdul Basit remains in prison, with only 3 days left till his execution. He has spent the past several years lying on the floor of his cell, reliant on jail officers to assist him with even the most basic hygiene. He also suffers from fecal and urinary incontinence. He has even been denied access to a wheel chair with the result that he suffers from bedsores. Despite these horrendous conditions, he occupies himself by copying out verses from the Qur’an, perhaps, this being his only cradle of hope. He leads an undignified, inhumane and unhygienic life – failed by the government, prison system and the criminal justice system.

The state refuses to look past it incongruity, and look at Abdul Basit as a paraplegic prisoner, especially one who has suffered for seven years in prison. Under the guise of combating terrorism, it seems that it is obliviously using the death penalty- clearing out its prisons, one helpless casualty at a time. Abdul’s disability is permanent. His execution would constitute a cruel and inhuman punishment under our constitution and Islamic jurisprudence.

His lawyers have petitioned for a stay, one that has to fight the labyrinthine and archaic procedure of testimony and evidence, that has been used to pass death sentences. These courts are blind to justice and norms, where saying enough is enough- is only the beginning. The justice system has proved to be nothing less than vengeful and futile. The constitution has also been amended to speed up the prosecution of terrorism-related cases, and move them from civilian to military courts. On 11 March 2015, the Pakistan government announced that it was unconditionally lifting the moratorium for all capital crimes and threatened to send up to 1000 prisoners to the gallows who had exhausted all legal options and mercy petitions. Pakistan has executed more than 200 people since reintroducing the death penalty , where its initial use of combatting terrorism seems to be long forgotten.

Abdul Basit is not a terrorist nor does he pose a violent threat to society. He has already forsaken his dignity and freedom to try to fight an inequitable justice system. It is time for the President of Pakistan, our self-proclaimed gallant state, and the inadequate justice system to look at what they have taken from Abdul Basit. It is time to take a stand and halt his execution- not making him another faceless number, hung from his wheelchair from the gallows.