Petitioner raises the question whether executing a prisoner who has already spent some 17 years on death row violates the Eighth Amendment's prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment.Albert Camus, in a passage I've quoted before, talked about time on death row differently. From Reflections on the Guillotine:
What then is capital punishment but the most premeditated of murders, to which no criminal's deed, however calculated it may be, can be compared? For there to be an equivalence, the death penalty would have to punish a criminal, who had warned his victim of the date at which he would inflict a horrible death on him, and who from that moment onward had confined him at his mercy for months. Such a monster is not encountered in private life.
Then there's Aftab Bahadur.
I doubt there is anything more dreadful than being told that you are going to die, and then sitting in a prison cell just waiting for that moment.
He wrote that less than a week ago. He knew something of that dread. He'd been on death row in Pakistan for 22 years now, since he was 15. He was executed a few hours ago. The Guardian, in a headnote to his comments, offers the plot.
He was sentenced to die for a crime on 5 September 1992 where a woman – Sabiha Bari – and her two sons were murdered. Ghulam Mustafa, a plumber with whom Aftab worked as a plumber’s apprentice, was arrested early in the morning of 6 September 1992, and implicated Aftab under torture. Ghulam is set to die on Wednesday as well, but has recanted his statement and said Aftab had nothing to do with the crime. The only “eyewitness” to the crime who testified against Aftab has recently made a statement before a religious minister that he was coerced into his testimony, that he was not even there, and that he certainly did not see Aftab commit the crime. Aftab insists he is innocent. According to Aftab, when he was arrested the police asked for a 50,000 rupee bribe and said they would let him go if he paid. As a plumber’s apprentice, Aftab said he could not pay.
There are more than 8,000 people on Pakistan's death row. It's the largest in the world.
But if Pakistan's row is larger, the psychic conditions are likely much the same.
For many years – since I was just 15 years old – I have been stranded between life and death. It has been a complete limbo, total uncertainty about the future.
In December, they lifted a moratorium.
When we heard the news about lifting the death penalty moratorium in December 2014, fear prevailed throughout the cells of the prison here. There was an overriding sense of horror. The atmosphere hung, gloomy, over us all. But then the executions actually started at Kot Lakhpat jail, and everyone started to go through mental torture.
More than 150 have been executed since then.
Those who were being hanged had been our companions for many years on this road to death, and it is only natural that their deaths left us in a state of despair.
It was terrorism that led to lifting the moratorium, and the idea was that they would kill the terrorists.
While the death penalty moratorium was ended on the pretext of killing terrorists, most of the people here in Kot Lakhpat are charged with regular crimes. Quite how killing them is going to stop the sectarian violence in this country, I cannot say.
Because boundaries, limits, gimme a break. Once they start. Look at the backlog frgodssake.
Yet, for the folks on the row, at least for Aftab Bahadur.
I have not given up hope, though the night is very dark.