This is an urgent plea for a man who is about to lose his life for a crime he did not commit.

Pakistani courts have arranged for the hanging of Shafqat Hussein on Thursday.

Hussein was arrested 10 years ago at the age of 14.  Police in Karachi tortured him for nine days; he was tied up, beaten, burnt with cigarettes, electrocuted and forced into a confession.  He had been accused of kidnapping a seven-year-old child in an apartment block that he worked in as a security guard.

Hussein was sentenced to death even though he withdrew his confession once incarcerated.  His lawyer, assigned to him by the state failed to bring up his age in court.

Peshawar attack

In December 2014 an attack on an army public school in Peshawar left 132 children and nine members of staff dead.  This horrific incident raised questions that demanded immediate answers.  The government and army took it upon themselves to respond with air strikes in North Waziristan, once again targeting the very people marginalised by the state.  They did not ask the questions that Peshawar asked of us. A state that ends life cannot be trusted to protect it.

The government was quick to lift its moratorium on the death penalty. Twenty seven people have been executed since December, like Hussein they are being rushed to the gallows without any true recourse to justice.  Eight thousand people remain on death row in Pakistan, including many who face charges of blasphemy and adultery, as well as those who like Hussein have been tortured into confessions.

Hussein is just one example of someone who has been failed by the Pakistani justice system.  Pakistan has turned into a nation hungry for blood.

When I first heard of Hussein’s first scheduled execution in January I was moved to tears, that someone my age could have spent 10 years of his life waiting to die.  The fact that he could be saved moved me even more.

Sluggish response

Hussein can be saved.  Pakistan’s interior minister, Chaudhry Nisar who can save Shafqat, has decided not to intervene, instead he said the issue should not be politicised.

My sister, Fatima, and I wrote to the President of Pakistan asking for clemency on behalf of Hussain. Unsurprisingly, our letter was never acknowledged. The media's reaction to the reemergence of the death penalty has been largely positive. Their response to the rush to execute a juvenile has been sluggish at best.  Pakistan has become feverishly pro death penalty, a sad development for a country constantly denied justice.

Pakistan is going through a painful time in its history; the attack on school children in Peshawar is just one instance in which our faith in humanity has been rocked.  The cure to our suffering will not be found in judicial killings, that will only break us to a point of no return.