‘You cannot take away life which you cannot give’

Published: April 11, 2017
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RAWALPINDI: Prisoners on death row have an arduous time as they wait in squalid conditions for their execution orders to arrive.

This was showcased through a short-play, Intizaar (The Wait), performed at the National College of Arts in Rawalpindi on Monday evening. The play had been organised by Ajoka Theatre in collaboration with human right organisations the Justice Project Pakistan, Complicit, and Highlight Arts.

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Performed by artists from the Ajoka Theatre it highlighted the plight of prisoners on death row and raised voice against the death penalty, flaws in the criminal justice system, illegal actions of the police, and the environment at prisons.

Based on stories of real inmates on death row, the characters included a prisoner who was educated and used to teach at the jail while waiting for his black warrants. Another prisoner was a painter, while one was a composer and singer, and one was physically crippled.

It showed how prisoners had to wait for years on end, first for courts to decide their cases, for their relatives to meet them and then for their execution.

The play evoked emotions of pity and fear among students of NCA and the audience through gripping scenes of court proceedings, interactions between the death row convicts, inmates’, their meetings with their relatives, and finally their executions.

The play ended with the message ‘tum kesey ley sakty ho wo jaan jot um dey nahi sakty’ (you cannot take away the life which you cannot give).

Later, Highlight Arts representative Ryan Van Winkle told The Express Tribune that they were using theatre to create awareness among students of different educational institutions against the death penalty and the flaws in the criminal justice system since they had already performed the play in Lahore.

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Nayyab, who performed the role of a human rights lawyer in the play, said that wanted to highlight the topic on to bigger forums such as television and cinema. However, the theatre had no such plans at the moment.

A man who played one of the death row convicts said it was not until he visited two to three jails to observe the conditions in which death row prisoners were living, did he change his attitude towards them.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 11th, 2017.

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