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I have died many times before death, wrote ‘innocent’ Christian man hanged in Pak jail

Aftab-BahadurA Christian man who was arrested, tortured into confessing the crime and sentenced to death was executed in Pakistan’s Lahore in early hours of Wednesday morning after 23 years of languishing in jail.

Aftab Bahadur, who as a minor worked as an apprentice for a plumber, was only 15 years of age, when on the fateful day of September 5, 1992, he was implicated in a murder case.

As per a rights group Reprieve, Bahadur was implicated into the murder by his employee plumber Ghulam Mustafa, who too was arrested for the same.

However, Mustafa later retracted his statement and another sole witness said that he was forced into testifying against Aftab, confirming his innocence.

However, the Pakistani authorities refused to allow his lawyers to secure key evidence that Mr Bahadur was innocent.

While in jail, Aftab wrote a letter in which he poured his heart out, describing his emotions and fears.

The letter originally written in Urdu and translated to English by the rights group Reprieve has been published in the Guardian.

In the letter, Aftab who described himself as an artist, has written how despite being innocent, he spent 23 years of his life in jail, waiting to die, “stranded between life and death”.

“During last 22 years of my imprisonment, I have received death warrants many times. I start to count down the days, which is in itself painful, and I find that my nerves are shackled in the same way as my body. In truth, I die many times before my death,” writes Aftab.

He also explained how being a Christian made things difficult for him even inside the prison.

Expressing his grief over the Christian bombings in Peshawar, Aftab wrote, “I wish that Pakistani people could possess a sense of nationality that overrode their sectarianism”.

Calling himself as an art lover, Aftab said how painting and writing verses came to his rescue when he wanted an escape from his misery.

“Nothing in this world can give me more happiness than the feeling when I paint some idea, or feeling on the canvas. My workload is great, and I am exhausted at the end of each day, but I am glad of that, as it keeps my mind off other things,” Aftab wrote.

Recounting how he was tortured by the police into confessing a crime he did not commit, Aftab said that he used to paint on the canvas the horrible memories “though it would perhaps have been better not to have to think of what the police did to try to get me to confess falsely to this crime”.

Regretting the execution of similar convicts, Aftab wondered “how killing them is going to stop the sectarian violence in this country”.

Ending his letter on a sombre note that suggests that he had an inkling about his fate, Aftab wrote, “I have not given up hope, though the night is very dark”.

It can be noted that Pakistan yesterday reprieved the death penalty of Shafqat Hussain, who was found guilty of kidnapping and killing a child in 2004.

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