KARACHI: After spending nine years in jail for killing a lawyer in court, Behram Khan is waiting for the day the executioner will tighten the noose around his neck.
“Most of my day is spent thinking about the noose,” said the 40-year-old inmate who was sentenced to death in 2003 by the Anti-Terrorism Court. “Sometimes I can feel it tightening around my neck but when I touch my neck, there is nothing there. It is horrible.” By May, Khan’s life changed. President Asif Ali Zardari rejected his mercy petition and the ATC set the execution process in motion. The court issued a black warrant and set a date, May 23, for the hanging. A few days before the execution, the president issued a stay order which delayed the hanging to June 30.
Karachi Central Prison authorities claim that Khan will not be hung on Saturday as they will have to write to the ATC and set a new date for the execution.
In the beginning, Khan spent his time at prison making caps and reminiscing with other prisoners, now, he says that it is difficult to make it through the day. He has no idea if he is going to make it back alive from the ‘Condemned Ward’, a secluded barrack for death row prisoners.
If the president or court do not issue another stay order, Khan’s execution will be the first since the Pakistan Peoples Party came into power in 2008.
To the gallows
While talking to The Express Tribune in a dusty record room at the prison, Khan sat comfortable on a chair without handcuffs and said that he was scared but tried to put on a brave face. He wore a white shalwar kameez, blue flip flops and scratched his bald head when he looked nervous or stared at the jailers.
Khan found out about his execution last month while watching television. A jailer, Shiraz came up to him and suggested that they should go outside for a walk because it was getting too stuffy inside.
A police officer, who was friends with Khan, told him that his case got messed up but did not give any details. “It did not hit me that I was going to be hanged,” he said. “I just did not understand what was happening.”
Later in the evening the prison authorities gently broke the news to him. Khan was asked to pay outstanding dues, pack his belongings and say good bye to the other inmates.
When Khan was moved into the ‘black room’ for solitary confinement, he asked the authorities if he could call his family in Dadu. “My sisters never visited me in jail,” he said. “But when I told them about the execution, they burst into tears.” Two police officers stood outside the cell and a doctor used to visit Khan every day to make sure he was doing well.
When the president issued a stay order to postpone the execution, Khan was relieved and moved back to the ‘condemned ward’. He said that although the idea of dying sent shivers down his spine, he could help counting down the days.
Since the black warrant, Khan has spent most of his time praying and asking for forgiveness.
“Spending nine years in jail is a long time,” he said. “Eventually it starts to feel like home and your mind goes numb.”
The first thing Khan plans to do, if he is released, is to visit his parents’ grave.
Khan is from Dadu and dropped out of school in eighth grade. He worked in the rice fields and moved to Karachi in search of work. He did not want to talk about the incident which put him behind bars but said that he was innocent and was falsely implicated.
In an attempt to save Khan, his family contacted the victim’s family and asked for a pardon. However, they refused.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 28th, 2012.
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