Sahiwal Central Jail: 50 years for irking judge

Published: August 29, 2011

20 years on, prison authorities say Khurshid Hassan has served his time. DESIGN: ESSA MALIK

SAHIWAL: 

Put behind bars 20 years ago, Khurshid Hassan is the longest-standing prisoner today in Sahiwal Central Jail (SCJ).

Framed by his employer for a crime he says he never committed, Hassan was arrested at the age of 17 from the servant quarter of the fields he was working in at the time.

“I was an orphan, I had no support system,” he recalls, adding, “The state provided me with a lawyer who hardly ‘fought’ my case. I got into an argument with the judge the day they were supposed to deliver my verdict … he got angry and said he would make me ‘regret it’… and then he sentenced me to 50 years in prison.”

With a weary expression on his face, it is impossible to tell that Hassan is, in fact, just 37 years old.

Picked up from Okara and thrown into SCJ, the country’s largest prison, Hassan was arrested for ‘aiding his employer’s relative in an incident involving robbery and murder’.

The relative in question, Rafique Sial, mentioned as the principal accused in the verdict, was handed a death sentence. However, while Hassan continues to serve his time, Sial managed to strike a compromise with the victim’s family and escaped his death row. His second sentence, life imprisonment, was also cut short through a mercy appeal to the president.

“If I had family outside this prison, I’d be able to get out too. I am the oldest prisoner here. I’ve seen so many others come and go, but I’m stuck here,” Hassan says in a dejected tone.

Khurshid has served enough time in prison, authorities at SCJ told The Express Tribune. “If someone fights his case, I’m sure he can get out,” says Shaukat, a Warrant Officer at SCJ. “He is a victim of an unfair verdict. Normally, in cases like his, we are instructed about a concurrent jail term, meaning both sentences will pass together. Hence, if we take his time in prison into account under those standards, he should be out by now,” Shaukat adds.

Khurshid should file a petition, as precedence exists in a judgment for a similar writ petition filed in the 80s by Justice Abdul Shakoorul Salaam, former chief justice of the Lahore High Court, which clearly stated that maximum time in prison for the same offence should not exceed 25 years, which is handed down for life imprisonment, says law expert Imran Aziz.“Speedy trials mean ‘justice hurried is justice buried’. And like Hassan, others accused who have been brought to special courts for speedy trials were never given time for proper defence,” Aziz adds.

This is highlighted in the verdict where the concluding remarks by the judge state that the police conducted a flawed investigation. Hassan was sent to prison through a judicial system which was a deviation from the course of justice, a representative of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, Zaman Khan, told The Express Tribune. “50 years of imprisonment is just too much. On humanitarian grounds alone, Hassan should not be in jail anymore,” Khan added. Prisons should play a more reformatory role in shaping an inmate’s future. However, in Hassan’s situation, it seems like he may just die in captivity, Khan said.

Just as a police officer arrives to tell him his time for the interview is up, Hassan says, “Aren’t 20 years enough? I want to go see the world outside.”

Walking back to his cell, Hassan admits he has never had visitors. “I’ve made a lot of friends out here. Some died, others were set free. Before leaving, they all promise to come back and visit … but no one ever does.”

Published in The Express Tribune, August 29th,  2011.

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Reader Comments (14)

  • BraveHeart
    Aug 29, 2011 - 11:08AM

    very sad
    ;(

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  • Iftikhar-ur-Rehman
    Aug 29, 2011 - 12:37PM

    This is the justice the poor innocent get!!!!! Where are all those NGO’s especially Mr.Burney who manipulated the release of an Indian Spy!!!!

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  • Pakistani
    Aug 29, 2011 - 2:09PM

    Very Sad CJ must look into this injustice and take into DSJ Sahiwal to task.r as far as Ansar Burney this is no case where he can get projection of his personality

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  • Faisal Naseem Chaudhry
    Aug 29, 2011 - 3:04PM

    I would request the Law Expert Imran Aziz to take up this case as pro bono and get this person out of jail !!!

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  • Sara
    Aug 29, 2011 - 3:37PM

    Good piece, Taha. Hopefully the HRCP will take up his case and get him some years of his live to live out of the jail. But I wonder, how will he adjust to the world out side that he has not seen since so many years. there are hardly and rehab centers for people coming out of prison. God help him.

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  • Nawaz
    Aug 29, 2011 - 4:21PM

    Yet another vicitm of “Speedy Trial”. That has to be one of the most condemnatory Acts that Pakistan has passed in the past 20 years. And that really says something.

    Working for a legal action charity I have seen people slumped in prisons across Pakistan for decades because they faced a “Speedy Trial”. These were orignally created for sole purpose of prosecuting terrorists but like many other policies in Pakistan, was abused to the point of no return.

    Khalid’s story, is unfortunately, the norm for people who faced trial in the early 90s. They, along with Khalid, need to be granted justice, regardless of how belated it is. The issue of being recompensed should also be discussed, but I know how Pakistan works..

    Here’s hoping Khalid recieves an iota of what he truly deserves: freedom, dignity and respect.

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  • Omair Shakil
    Aug 29, 2011 - 4:31PM

    I think our lawyers are too busy garlanding the likes of Mumtaz Qadri to take up this poor soul’s case.

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  • Shahida khan
    Aug 29, 2011 - 4:38PM

    Very sad :(

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  • Anwar
    Aug 29, 2011 - 5:12PM

    Hardly 10% get justice in this rotten judicial system. CJ was a ray of hope but he is too obsessed with his past. Existing system needs a complete overhaul.

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  • Aug 29, 2011 - 8:07PM

    Thank you all for your feedback. Really appreciate it. We r trying to find a legal counsel for Khurshid. Maybe he will be out soon if all goes well.Recommend

  • Faisal Naseem Chaudhry
    Aug 29, 2011 - 9:32PM

    Mr Taha, i know Barrister Imran Aziz Khan personally; he is the best for this assignment. Why dont you ask him ?

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  • Aug 29, 2011 - 10:16PM

    Okay I will talk to him. Perhaps you can too. Let’s hope for the best.

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  • Nadeem Ahmed
    Aug 29, 2011 - 11:17PM

    He will regret when he comes out. Situation outside is no better.

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  • sohail.yafat
    Aug 30, 2011 - 10:51AM

    sara is quit right its very hard for person to spend a big part of his life behind the bars for nothing because life become a beetle of survival-may god bless you

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