Updated at 19:50 GMT
What were you like when you were 14? A powerful video plea asks this question, while imploring the Pakistan government to halt the Thursday execution of Shafqat Hussain, sentenced to death when he was only 14 for being involved in the kidnapping and murder of a 7-year-old.
Right before midnight on Wednesday, TV channels in Pakistan started reporting that the President of Pakistan had postponed Shafqat's execution indefinitely.
The video was released on the morning of Wednesday on popular activist Jibran Nasir‘s official Facebook page, and is being widely shared. On Twitter, the hashtag #SaveShafqat has been used 6,000 times in last 24 hours and 13,000 times in the last 30 days.
By the evening dozens of activists gathered in Islamabad to deliver a mercy petition to the President. They were blocked by police.
Officials from Presidency tell us to return coz nothing will be done to #SaveShafqat. He says it is ‘illogical’ to intervene at this stage …
— #SaveShafqat (@SaveShafqat) March 18, 2015
Shafqat has been on death row for 11 years.
Shafqat's sentence was based off a confession that his lawyers say the police got after nine days of torture.
Tortured. Raped. Nails pulled off. He was 14. And that's the state in which he confessed to a murder. Shafqat deserves justice #SaveShafqat
— Mehr Tarar (@MehrTarar) March 14, 2015
Reprieve, a UK-based human right organization that opposes the death penalty, has been working on Shafqat's case for years:
The police told him they would not stop until he confessed. He was blindfolded, kept in solitary confinement, beaten, electrocuted and burned with cigarette butts. He was just 14 years of age at the time. Shafqat said he would have admitted “that a deer was an elephant” by the time his torture was over.
Children aren't allowed to be given death sentences in Pakistan.
But the police recorded his age as 23 when they arrested him. That record has never been corrected. Shafqat was not given access to a lawyer when he was first charged in 2004 in Karachi.
Courts refuse to look into Shafqat's age.
Justice Project Pakistan, a non-profit that defends Pakistanis on death row pro bono, has been leading the effort to prove Shafqat's innocence. Soon after the video was released, Pakistan's Federal Interior Minister Chaudhary Nisar said the Sindh government, responsible for carrying out the execution, has refused his request to conduct a DNA test to determine Shafqat's age.
Fed Govt passing the buck to Sindh Govt, Sindh Govt passing it back. No one knows who has authority to #SaveShafqat and suspend sentence
— Jibran Nasir (@MJibranNasir) March 18, 2015
The #SafeShafqat video in Urdu, produced by Tazeen Bari runs just over three minutes and features four people, including activist Jibran Nasir, answering Tazeen's question, “What were you like when you were 14 years old?” Here's an English translation of their answers by Rai Azlan:
I was really small.
I was really short and a lot fatter than this.
One second, if I want to say insecure, can I say that in English?
You can say I was an extreme introvert.
I was really insecure.
It was the first time I fell in love.
I used to play a lot of cricket.
I felt like maybe I had fallen love.
My favorite thing was music.
I loved to cook and my father used to say that I shouldn't become a cook.
I used to have a small radio. I'd lock myself in my room and listen to songs.
Whenever my teacher asked I replied that I would become Superman when I grew up.
I would do bowling like Paul Adams, what is called chinaman style. I had a strange action.
At the age of 14, at times I think that if at that time someone asked me what is right and
what is wrong I would not have been able to answer it.
I was a scared, scared like anything. Also I had no older brother back then.
I had no clue what life is.
I was still capable of doing terrible things but yes I was innocent.
Jibran Nasir then continues:
A 14-year-old child cannot get a driving license, a 14-year-old child cannot own land according to the law of this country, according to the law a 14-year-old cannot get married, a 14-year-old child cannot vote in this country, in this country a 14-year-old cannot get an identity card because he or she is a minor, is innocent, and is a child. However, the government of Pakistan gave a death sentence to a 14-year-old child. Regardless of whether Shafqat committed the crime or not, he was given a death sentence when he was only 14. Now you try to recall what you were like when you were 14 years old, and what were your ambitions back then, and what plans you had for life. And think if Shafqat should get that right or not. Should his death sentence be altered to a life sentence or should he be given a chance at rehabilitation? Shafqat's case is a trial of our whole criminal justice system of how evidence is not collected properly, how statements are recorded forcefully, and how a sentence is granted, which he does not even deserve. Save a child. Save humanity. Save Shafqat.
Police have blocked activists in Islamabad.
— Marvi Sirmed (@marvisirmed) March 18, 2015
— Mighty (@mightyobvious) March 18, 2015
— Mighty (@mightyobvious) March 18, 2015
Shafqat was born into extreme poverty.
Shafqat's family was hundreds of miles away in northern Pakistan when he was sentenced. Shafqat left his family in Kashmir to earn a living in the southern port city of Karachi at the age of 13.
1) Shafqat left school after grade IV. Extreme poverty made him into a child worker. Went to megapolis Karachi for work. #SaveShafqat
— Raza Rumi (@Razarumi) March 18, 2015
Those who were up praying in the night to #SaveShafqat weren't just praying to save one life,they were praying to save the whole of mankind.
— Jamila Hanan (@JamilaHanan) March 18, 2015
Pakistan recently revived the death penalty.
Two months ago, Pakistan lifted its moratorium on the death penalty after seven years, following the horrific attack on a Peshawar school which killed dozens of children in December 2014. Shafqat's execution date was soon set. Interior Minister Nisar Ali Khan stayed his execution when he heard that Shafqat was wrongly sentenced at 14, but Pakistan’s courts recently threw out his petition and issued a fresh execution order for March 19.
Since the moratorium has been lifted, 39 people have been executed. Another 1,000 prisoners have exhausted their appeals and are set to be hanged. Currently more than 8,000 people are on death row in Pakistan, more than anywhere in the world.
Sign the petition to #SaveShafqat.