Posts filed under 'Pakistan'

2015: Nine more in Pakistan

Add comment March 18th, 2015 Headsman

Today, one day after hanging 12 of its 8,000 condemned prisoners, Pakistan extended its newfound mass-execution campaign. Nine more men went to the gallows at various jails in several Punjab cities.

On the heels of Tuesday’s executions, this binge surely portends a return for Pakistan to the ranks of the world’s most active executioners, sub-China division. Human rights organizations are predictably horrified.

Dawn.com reported the identities of the hanged men — all murderers — as:

  • Lahore (1) — Tahir Shabir
  • Jhang (2) — Ghulam Muhammad and Zakir Hussain
  • Faisalabad (2) — Shafqat and Saeed
  • Rawalpindi (2) — Shaukat Ali and Muhammad Shabir
  • Mianwali (1) — Ahmed Nawaz
  • Attock (1) — Asad Mehmood Khan

More hangings are planned for Thursday, including the controversial execution of Shafqat Hussain, whom advocates say was condemned as a juvenile based on a torture-adduced confession. The shadow of the noose also appears to have triggered a scramble among at least some of those due to be executed to reach private settlements with their victims’ families. Dawn.com reported that Qadeer Ahmed in Rawalpindi and Azhar Mahmood and Muhammad Zaman in Gujrat were both reprieved from Wednesday executions by producing such arrangements at the eleventh hour.

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Entry Filed under: 21st Century,Capital Punishment,Common Criminals,Crime,Death Penalty,Execution,Hanged,Mass Executions,Murder,Pakistan,Ripped from the Headlines

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2015: Twelve in Pakistan

Add comment March 17th, 2015 Headsman

Repudiating its former death penalty moratorium with bombast, the government of Pakistan hanged 12 men today.

From 2008 to 2014, Pakistan while continuing to hand down death sentences had suspended their completion; a soldier condemned by court-martial and hanged in 2012 was the sole execution during that period.

As these pages have recently noted, the December 16 Peshawar school massacre abruptly ended that moratorium.

Islamabad resumed executions almost immediately thereafter, explicitly as a response to that atrocity. Those were, at first, hangings of prisoners convicted of terrorism-related offenses — not connected to Peshawar per se but tit-for-tat in at least a thematic fashion.

Approximately 27 terrorists with pre-existing death sentences hanged over the ensuing weeks.

But in keeping with the tradition of our age, “just terrorists” was just the camel’s nose under the tent.

Earlier this very month, the Interior Ministry announced an end to the death penalty moratorium for all crimes — casting many more people under the pall of potentially imminent execution.

The execution of death sentences may be carried out strictly as per the law and only where all legal options and avenues have been exhausted and mercy petitions under Article 45 of the Constitution of Islamic Republic of Pakistan have been rejected by the president.

Pakistan has continued even during the moratorium to be one of the most active death-sentencing countries in the world, and has an estimated 8,000 “ordinary” condemned criminals. Because many — up to 1,000 — of those prisoners’ judicial processes and clemency appeals ran their course during the time of the moratorium, and because President Nawaz Sharif has shown an avidity in the three months since Peshawar for the hangman’s services, it has been feared that Pakistan’s execution toll this year could easily vault straight into the triple digits.

That prospective hecatomb is yet to be determined — but today’s start will not reassure human rights advocates.

Different media outlets are giving slightly different rosters of the executed this morning, and Zafar Iqbal confusingly appears to be a name shared by two different prisoners — so this list (via the Pakistan Tribune) is offered only tentatively pending more definitive revisions. It appears to me that all or nearly all committed murder, often in the course of some other crime such as robbery or rape.

  • Multan (1) — Zafar Iqbal (another man there named Wazar Nazir was reportedly reprieved at the last moment)
  • Karchi (2) — Muhammad Faisal and Muhammad Afzal
  • Faisalabad (1) — Muhammad Nawaz
  • Rawalpindi (2) — Malik Muhammad Nadeem Zaman and Muhammad Jawed
  • Gujranwala (1) — Muhammad Iqbal
  • Jhang (3) – Muhammad Riaz, Muhammad Sharif, and Mubashir Ali (or Abbas?)
  • Mianwali (2) — Rab Nawaz and Zafar Iqbal

The hanged Muhammad Afzal’s shrouded body is received by his brother in Karachi.

A second man in Multan, named Wazar Nazir, was reported reprieved at the last moment, as was an Asghar Ali in Dera Ghazi Khan.

According to Dawn.com, these executions bring the count of those executed since Peshawar to 39.

At least one more hanging is scheduled for this week: Shafqat Hussain, allegedly tortured into confessing to a murder at the age of just 14 or 15.

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Entry Filed under: 21st Century,Capital Punishment,Common Criminals,Crime,Death Penalty,Execution,Hanged,Mass Executions,Murder,Pakistan,Rape,Ripped from the Headlines,Theft

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2015: Ahmed Ali and Ghulam Shabbir, Pakistan terrorists

3 comments January 7th, 2015 Headsman

Pakistan this morning has hanged at the central jail of Multan two members of the long-banned Sipah-e-Sahaba Sunni militant party.

Pakistan has been on an execution bender in recent weeks, following the terrorist massacre of 140-plus people at a Peshawar school on December 16.

Directly following that attack, Pakistan lifted a running moratorium on executions and began finalizing death sentences against various people with years-old terrorism death sentences having no particular connection to Peshawar; it carried out four cathartic hangings on December 20.

Ahmed Ali and Ghulam Shabbir both had death sentences from years-old murders (1998 and 2000) that Pakistan characterized as “terrorist” killings.

There have been a total of nine hangings since the Peshawar massacre, and at least eight more people have had mercy pleas officially rejected by Pakistan President Mamnoon Hussain, and could be executed soon.

While this is a fine clip for three weeks’ work, it might just be the tip of the iceberg: Pakistan has threatened to execute up to 500 prisoners over the coming months.

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Entry Filed under: 21st Century,Capital Punishment,Crime,Death Penalty,Execution,Hanged,Murder,Pakistan,Ripped from the Headlines,Terrorists

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2012: Ajmal Kasab, 26/11 Mumbai terrorist

November 21st, 2012 Headsman

At 7:30 this morning at Yerwada jail in Pune, Maharashtra, the sole surviving author of 21st century India’s most notorious terrorist plot was put to death.

Ajmal Kasab was captured alive after the deadly November 26, 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks. The “26/11” date will live quite a while in infamy on the subcontinent … as will the chilling CCTV images of the armed and armored Kasab prowling the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus. Kasab and his partner in the rail station attack slew more than 50 people that evening, and another dozen-plus policemen in running gun battles as they fled the scene.

This was only one of a multitude of Mumbai targets hit in an audacious attack on that 26/11 by a ten-man team of Lashkar-e-Taiba* Islamic militants, trained in Pakistan. They had sailed in from Karachi (murdering the crew of a small fishing boat they hijacked) just for the occasion.

Kasab’s confederates elsewhere in town achieved a similar body count hitting a pair of five-star hotels, the Taj Mahal and the Oberoi Trident, each of which turned into a multi-day hostage standoff only resolved by a bloody to-the-death shootout with paramilitaries.

Attacks on a cafe and a Jewish center, as well as several timed bombs, also took place. In all, some 166 people — plus nine of the ten terrorists responsible — died, with hundreds more wounded and a nation of more than a billion shaken and angry. It’s one of those cases that make people say, “if ever there was a death penalty case …” Kasab’s speedy dispatch has been a hot political topic since he was first handed a death sentence on May 6, 2010, and the whole affair has not done any favors for the ever-touchy India-Pakistan relationship.

The (usually) sluggish India death penalty process requires that cases cleared by the judiciary receive executive clemency consideration — a stage of the process that often takes years. Recent presidents have tended to stand on only considering such applications in the order they are submitted, and then either granting those clemencies after ponderous review, or scarcely prioritizing any review at all, with further judicial interventions and a shrinking pool of trained hangmen also gumming up the works.

It’s been a recipe for virtual death penalty abolition: the last hanging prior to Kasab’s was in 2004, India’s only other execution this century. This is in a country with one-sixth of the world’s population.

Pranab Mukherjee, India’s new president, took office with a number of presidential clemency applications still pending, some dating back to the late Nineties. While there’s no guarantee that he’ll break with the glacial pattern established by his predecessors when it comes to backlogged everyday criminals, Mukherjee advanced this exceptional petition right to the front of the line and turned it down flat even as Kasab was secretly transferred from his unusual egg-shaped bombproof Mumbai cell to the hanging facility at Yerwada.

“His execution,” said Maharashta Home Minister R.R. Patil, “is a tribute to the victims.”

* Lashkar-e-Taiba also masterminded a 2001 massacre at the Indian Parliament, which brought India and Pakistan to the brink of war.

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Entry Filed under: 21st Century,Capital Punishment,Death Penalty,Execution,Hanged,History,India,Murder,Pakistan,Ripped from the Headlines,Terrorists

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1931: Bhagat Singh

2 comments March 23rd, 2012 Headsman

I am full of ambition and hope and of full charm of life. But I can renounce all at the time of need, and that is the real sacrifice. These things can never be hinderance in the way of man, provided he be a man. You will have the practical proof in the near future.

Bhagat Singh

On this date in 1931,* India revolutionary Bhagat Singh was hanged by the British in Lahore, together with Shivaram Rajguru and Sukhdev Thapar. The hanging was surreptitiously done, on the evening before it was officially scheduled, with the men’s cremated ashes scattered into the nearby Satluj River.


Statue of the three March 23 martyrs near Amritsar, Punjab, close to the Pakistani border. (cc) image from Alicia Nijdam.

Though only 23 years of age when he hanged, Singh’s renown as a nationalist freedom-fighter was already considerable. It has not lessened in the intervening decades.

The teenage Singh had participated in Gandhi‘s nonviolent Non-Cooperation Movement, but violent British suppression of independence demonstrations soon had Singh looking for a more energetic response.

Till that time I was only a romantic revolutionary, just a follower of our leaders. Then came the time to shoulder the whole responsibility. … I began to study in a serious manner. My previous beliefs and convictions underwent a radical change. The romance of militancy dominated our predecessors; now serious ideas ousted this way of thinking. No more mysticism! No more blind faith! Now realism was our mode of thinking.

-Singh, from “Why I am an atheist”

Singh issued his definitive reply to British violence in 1929 by exploding a couple of bombs in the subcontinent’s legislative building.**

“It takes a loud noise to make the deaf hear,” read their leaflet, vindicating the (non-lethal) ordnance.

Singh’s arrest, along with a fellow bomb-tosser, was an intended consequence, but the official pursuit of the case against him also led back to Singh’s fellow-revolutionaries and bomb-manufacturers. Some of these were induced to inculpate Singh, Rajguru, and Thapar to the theretofore-unsolved murder of Lahore policeman John Saunders in December 28.

Saunders had been mistakenly assassinated: Singh et al took him for John Scott, a police superintendent who ordered a baton charge against protesters and personally helped beat to death one of the independence movement’s revered fathers.

While the law wrapped its coils about him, Singh led a successful hunger strike for better prison conditions, and kept churning out writing.

His example of sacrificial revolutionary ardor — not to mention his leftist politics — kept him a popular martyr figure for years after his death, all the way down to the present day.


Climactic execution scene from the 2002 Hindi flm The Legend of Bhagat Singh — one of many different cinematic adaptations of his story.

The Shaheedi Mela (Martyrdom Fair) is observed across Punjab each March 23 in honor of these men.

* Not on Valentine’s Day, as a 2011 Twitter hoax claimed.

** Shades of Auguste Vaillant.

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Entry Filed under: 20th Century,Capital Punishment,Cycle of Violence,Death Penalty,England,Execution,Famous,Hanged,History,India,Martyrs,Murder,Occupation and Colonialism,Pakistan,Popular Culture,Power,Revolutionaries,Terrorists

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1943: Hemu Kalani, Sindh revolutionary

1 comment January 21st, 2011 Headsman

On this date in 1943, the British hanged India independence activist Hemu Kalani in Sukkur for attempting to sabotage a rail line.

You could say the Sindh youth was not cowed by the Empire’s suppression of the Quit India movement.

“In the face of this shameful capitulation of the ‘left’ leaders,” he raged of respectable pols prepared to accept office at the pleasure of the British during wholesale confinement of political prisoners, “what should the rank and file ‘leftists’ do?”

It is only by waging unremitting struggle against capitulation in every form, by fighting against dissolution of their own organizations, that they can seriously fight to attain the goal. Intransigent opposition to every capitulationist masquerading as a ‘leftist’!

As the British rounded up the Quit India leadership, less conciliatory young people like Kalani came to the fore (pdf) and then were further radicalized by British intransigence.

If you’re going to lock up Mr. Nonviolence himself, Mahatma Gandhi, you’re going to get to deal instead with the elements he keeps in check. That was certainly Gandhi’s argument: he refused to condemn violence, observing that the British themselves had called it up.

Mass protests gave way to more aggressive direct action; in Kalani’s case, that meant derailing a train bringing ammunition to the European forces occupying his native province.

Caught in the act, he refused under torture to shop his comrade, earning a hemp necktie from the occupiers and the tribute of posterity on the subcontinent.

Somewhat ironically, the relative intransigence of Quit India supporters during this period, as compared with the Muslim League‘s greater support for Britain’s immediate World War II exigencies, helped to cleave apart Pakistan and India when independence did come in the late 1940s … which is why the Hindu Kalani is most honored in India, even though his native soil is now in Pakistan.

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Entry Filed under: 20th Century,Capital Punishment,Death Penalty,England,Execution,Hanged,History,India,Martyrs,Occupation and Colonialism,Pakistan,Power,Revolutionaries,Torture,Treason,Wartime Executions

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1971: Martyred Intellectuals’ Day in Bangladesh

3 comments December 14th, 2009 Headsman

This date’s observance marks the systematic execution by (West) Pakistani forces of the intellectual class of East Pakistan at the end of the civil war which would detach the east as the independent nation Bangladesh — an unavenged war crime as cynical as it was brutal.


Executed intellectuals in the Dhaka Rayerbazar, 1971.

This was not a single discrete massacre, but a continuing policy during the March-December 1971 war. December 14, just two days before the Pakistani army surrendered, was the peak date of a dreadful endgame paroxysm that saw hundreds of scholars, teachers, lawyers, doctors, artists, writers, engineers, and the like rounded up and summarily executed in a bid to decapitate the new Bengali state’s intelligentsia.

Though the martyrs were subsequently venerated in Bangladesh, the higher-stakes regional geopolitics have always made effective redress a nonstarter.

Gorgeous pictures of another memorial.

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Entry Filed under: 20th Century,Artists,Bangladesh,Borderline "Executions",Death Penalty,Doctors,Execution,Famous,History,Innocent Bystanders,Intellectuals,Lawyers,Martyrs,Mass Executions,Mature Content,No Formal Charge,Occupation and Colonialism,Pakistan,Popular Culture,Power,Shot,Summary Executions,Wartime Executions

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2002: Ahmed Sultan and Mohammad Humayun, who murdered Meena

1 comment May 7th, 2008 Headsman

On this date in 2002, the killers of one of Afghanistan’s most noted feminists were hanged in Mach Jail outside Quetta, Pakistan.

Afghan feminist Meena Keshwar Kamal had founded in 1977 the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan. RAWA works (and has done so against the successive Soviet, Taliban and Karzai regimes) for secularism, democracy and equality — per this poetic manifesto of its founder (Source):

I am a woman who has awoken
I have arisen and become a tempest through the ashes of my burnt children
I have arisen from the rivulets of my brother’s blood
My nation’s wrath has empowered me
My ruined and burnet villages replete me with hatred against the enemy
O compatriot, no longer regard me as weak and incapable
My voice has mingled with thousands of arisen women
My fists are clenched with fists of thousands of compatriots
To break together all these sufferings, all these fetters of slavery
I am the woman who has awoken
I’ve found my path and will never return.

Meena was assassinated in Quetta in 1987 just shy of her 31st birthday; that her killer(s) be brought to justice was long one of RAWA’s key political demands, and the organization supported this day’s hanging.

RAWA itself — which enjoyed a brief turn at the height of worldwide vogue as the United States prepared to invade Afghanistan and found itself suddenly inspired by the plight of women under the mullahs — holds its fallen founder as a martyr and continues to agitate.

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1979: Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, Prime Minister of Pakistan

Add comment April 4th, 2008 Headsman

In the small hours of the morning this date, the Pakistani military junta hanged former Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.

At the end of 1971, Bhutto, a former cabinet official who had broken with Pakistan’s military strongman, rode a wave of discontent into power as the economy crumbled, and East Pakistan broke away from Islamabad to form Bangladesh.

Born to a well-heeled Muslim family in British India, the charismatic and often arrogant Bhutto had feets in the streets and a way with both the domestic audience and the global one:

But he did not necessarily have a power bloc equal to the weight of the Pakistani military as he navigated the storm of controversial domestic challenges; in retrospect, it seems only a matter of time before his hold on power would slip.

In July 1977, Army Chief of Staff Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq, a fellow clan member whom Bhutto had promoted ahead of more senior officers, repaid his sponsor by overthrowing him in a virtually bloodless coup.

A protracted — and vengeful — legal drama with a pre-scripted ending unfolded over the ensuing two years, with Bhutto twice released and twice re-arrested, convicted of an earlier political murder on the testimony of “witnesses” who had obviously been tortured and coached, and his sentence upheld by a divided Supreme Court gamed to avoid the presence of a pro-Bhutto judge.

It was not out of character for this affair that the fallen Prime Minister was hanged secretly and before he expected, his (widely protested) death not announced until the following morning.

Allegories of Bhutto and Zia struggle for power in this early Salman Rushdie novel (more).

Bhutto makes a flawed saint, but his turn at power stands as an island of something like democracy in a sea of Cold War Pakistani dictatorships.

The Pakistan Peoples Party he founded still remains a principle organ of liberalism in Pakistan, and still honors its martyred leader. Reflective of both the vision and the personal autocracy of its progenitor, its leadership has passed dynastically through Bhutto family members, most famously daughter Benazir Bhutto, who succeeded Gen. Zia (he died in a suspicious plane crash) as Prime Minister — the first female elected head of state in the Islamic world.

Benazir Bhutto, of course, was assassinated this past December, just ahead of parliamentary elections that have just now produced a coalition government that will vie with Islamabad’s most recent military ruler for power.

The website bhutto.org preserves a considerable collection of the elder Bhutto’s writings, as well as photography, video and other resources.

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Entry Filed under: 20th Century,Capital Punishment,Death Penalty,Execution,Famous,Hanged,Heads of State,History,Martyrs,Murder,Notable Jurisprudence,Notably Survived By,Pakistan,Political Expedience,Politicians,Power,Ripped from the Headlines,Wrongful Executions

1949: Nathuram Godse, Gandhi’s assassin

15 comments November 15th, 2007 Headsman

On this date in 1949, Mahatma Gandhi’s assassin was hanged at India’s Ambala Jail, together with one of his co-conspirators.

Often spoken of posthumously as little less than a saint, Gandhi was deeply immersed in the controversial rough-and-tumble politics of his time — India’s independence movement, and the shape of the nascent state. Winston Churchill, for instance, scorned him as “a seditious middle temple lawyer, now posing as a fakir of a type well known in the east, striding half-naked up the steps of the viceregal palace.”

The hatred of a Tory M.P. at the twilight of the empire might be expected, but it was a Hindu nationalist who struck Gandhi down after the partition into a Hindu India and a Muslim Pakistan. Gandhi had vocally opposed partition on the grounds of interreligious tolerance — but he eventually assented to Pakistan’s separation when he became convinced that the alternative was civil war.

Distrusted by Hindu partisans for his “appeasement” of minority groups within India, Gandhi survived numerous attempts on his life. But he sealed his fate by fasting to compel Delhi to make its agreed-upon partition payments to Islamabad even in the midst of war. Nathuram Godse, a Hindu nationalist, gunned him down during evening prayers on January 30, 1948.

(For a less Hollywood take on Gandhi, a five-hour documentary available online surveys his life.)

Godse never betrayed doubt or regret. On the contrary, he cogently justified the murder at trial:

I thought to myself and foresaw I shall be totally ruined, and the only thing I could expect from the people would be nothing but hatred and that I shall have lost all my honour, even more valuable than my life, if I were to kill Gandhiji. But at the same time I felt that the Indian politics in the absence of Gandhiji would surely be proved practical, able to retaliate, and would be powerful with armed forces. No doubt, my own future would be totally ruined, but the nation would be saved from the inroads of Pakistan. People may even call me and dub me as devoid of any sense or foolish, but the nation would be free to follow the course founded on the reason which I consider to be necessary for sound nation-building.

I do say that my shots were fired at the person whose policy and action had brought rack and ruin and destruction to millions of Hindus. There was no legal machinery by which such an offender could be brought to book and for this reason I fired those fatal shots.

Sixty years later, the subcontinent and the world at large seem more strained than ever by the collision between these men’s visions — the secular and egalitarian as against violent religious animosity.

Godse’s old party, the RSS, has become a substantial far-right bloc in the modern political scene. And while the party has always disavowed responsibility for the murder, some still consider Godse a hero. Pakistan, for whose birth Gandhi was slain, totters on the brink of an abyss.

Gandhi, meanwhile, is not only the official “father of his country” but has become the very watchword for nonviolence, his tactics and ideas inspiring such luminaries as Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King, Jr. But his life and legacy remain live topics of research and dispute.

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Entry Filed under: 20th Century,Activists,Assassins,Capital Punishment,Death Penalty,Execution,Famous,Hanged,History,India,Infamous,Martyrs,Murder,Notable for their Victims,Occupation and Colonialism,Pakistan

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