Shafqat Hussain's Execution Stayed by IHC over Age Dispute
ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Tuesday issued a stay order against the execution of murder convict Shafqat Hussain just a day before he was scheduled to be hanged after it concluded that the inquiry conducted by Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) to determine Hussain’s age was ‘illegal’.
Hussain was arrested and sentenced to death by an anti-terrorism court in 2004 for the kidnapping and murder of a seven-year-old boy in 2001 from an apartment building in Karachi where he was working as a guard. His execution has been delayed three times as confusion over whether he was a juvenile when convicted or not remains unclear.
Justice Athar Minallah, during a hearing of a case related to Hussain’s age, observed that the federation had created doubts by ordering FIA to conduct an inquiry after the matter was decided by the Supreme Court.
“The process of determining age by the federation was illegal,” observed the court, adding that if it was so necessary then the agency should have sought permission from the apex court before setting up the inquiry committee.
When asked who ordered the inquiry, the state counsel said that the FIA conducted the inquiry on the orders of interior ministry. “Can the person who ordered the inquiry appear before the court and confess that his order was in violation with the Supreme Court’s verdict,” asked Justice Minallah.
The state counsel argued that even if the inquiry was not conducted, the fundamental rights of the petitioner would not have been violated as his conviction and sentence had already been upheld by the superior court.
To this, Justice Minallah questioned how it would impact the president, the federation and the courts if Hussain was found a minor after his execution as his death warrants were issued while the inquiry was being conducted.
Subsequently, the court ordered a stay of Hussain’s execution till the case was pending before the court. The hearing will now resume on May 6.
On May 4, IHC had directed the government to explain the legal status of FIA inquiry conducted to determine Hussain’s age. The direction came after Hussain’s counsel convinced Justice Minallah in light of the Supreme Court judgment that only a judicial forum could determine whether Hussain was a juvenile at the time of his conviction.
The counsel, Dr Tariq Hassan, had maintained that the apex court in a similar case ruled that only a judicial commission could be set up to determine a convict’s age.
Mercy appeals for Hussain were rejected by Sindh High Court in 2006, Supreme Court in 2007 while the then President, Asif Ali Zardari, had also rejected his mercy petition in 2012.
The murder convict, who was initially due to be hanged on the morning of March 19, was given a reprieve hours before his scheduled execution after a civil society campaign raised the possibility of a mistrial.
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