aftab 3
Aftab Bahadur Masih in 1992.

My name is Aftab Nazir Bahadur. I was born on the 30th day of the month of June in 1977, but it looks like I may not see my 39th year.

I am set to be hanged on Wednesday. They will take me to the gallows in the middle of the night and that, I suppose, will be that after all this time.

Indeed, it has been a long time - more than 22 years - since I was arrested for something I did not do in September 1992. I was just 15 years old then, and now I have spent most of my life waiting on Death Row.

I must admit that I feel hopelessness, but I look to God for help. I have watched several people go to their deaths over the years - many more in the past months since the moratorium was lifted in December.

Each time someone is led away, I pray for his life and forgiveness – maybe forgiveness for the crime he committed, but if he is innocent, maybe I just pray that God should forgive his sins, as I would for any of us.

Or, maybe I should say, a future at all since I was little more than a child when I was locked up. I have not had much of a life so far.
- Aftab Bahadur

Many years ago now, when I heard the judge pronounce the death sentence, I was shocked, my mind was paralysed. They say here in Pakistan that they "award" you the death penalty: it was beyond anything I could imagine, because the judge was sentencing me to the ultimate punishment for something that I didn't do.

People ask whether I would not just rather go ahead and die, after all this time on death row. But no, I do not prefer death because then I would be wasting my life, and that is a sin. I just pray for the mercy of God. And perhaps there is someone with power who can show mercy here on Earth as well.

I try to keep up hope. I try to do something with my time. I like painting, so I keep myself busy that way. I do it to keep my disappointment and hopelessness at arm's length from me, each day in my prison cell. I am hopeful that God will "award" me freedom and better future.

The case of Aftab Bahadur

Aftab Bahadur was sentenced to death on 5<sup>th September 1992 for the murder of Sabiha Bari and her two sons.

The other person accused of the crime, Ghulam Mustafa, a plumber with whom Aftab worked as a plumber's apprentice, was arrested early in the morning of 6<sup>th September 1992, and the police used torture to force him to implicate Aftab.

Ghulam has recently stated that Aftab had nothing to do with the crime, for which there was only one eyewitness. He has also made a statement before a religious figure saying he lied, and that he was not even there and did not see Aftab commit the crime.

Aftab insists he is innocent.

Pakistan has executed as many as 150 prisoners since lifting its moratorium on the death penalty in December.

Or, maybe I should say, a future at all since I was little more than a child when I was locked up. I have not had much of a life so far.

Most of the people here, like me, are facing many punishments, rather than just one. If I had been sentenced to life, I would perhaps have served ten years in prison and then gone free. But my first punishment was losing my parents; I have no one who is alive who comes to visit me.

My second punishment was the mental death that visits us all, because there is a limit beyond which it is impossible to bear the pain and agony.

How could a person be normal after just ten years, with the possibility every day of hearing that you were finally going to the gallows? And yet for me, it has been more than twice that long. I have served this dreadful life sentence already, and yet they want me to suffer another punishment on Wednesday - death by hanging.

I have a message to the people outside the jail, it would be a request: Please do whatever is possible to save the people who are suffering from this double punishment, first life in prison, then death.

Maybe you will not save me, but perhaps you will save someone. And what greater contribution can you make than to save a human life?

Aftab Bahadur is a prisoner in Pakistan, convicted in 1992 of murder that he claims he did not commit.