Life and death: Elderly mother strives to fight son’s death sentence

After losing two sons, Mai Zainab fears the loss of another, if his appeal is not accepted by the Supreme Court.

Sarfaraz Memon August 23, 2011

SUKKUR: After his brother’s death by police brutality, Bakhshan Otho wanted the men punished. He is now in jail, waiting for the Supreme Court to accept his appeal against his death sentence.

He belongs to Garhi Mori village, in Khairpur district. His elderly mother lives in Sukkur and works as a maid in five houses to earn bread and butter for her six grandchildren. Two of her married daughters and their children also live with Mai Zainab.

Her husband, Mehram Ali Otho was a police constable. He retired from the force in 1989. The eldest, Bakhshan, followed in the footsteps of his father and joined the police in 1983.

Mai Zainab had four other sons, Gulzar, Mehboob, Ghulam Sarwar and Waheed, and three daughters.

Mai Zainab told The Express Tribune that after Mehram Ali died in 1994, Gulzar was framed in a kidnapping case by the Hakro community. He was sent to jail for eight years. Bakhshan tried to help his brother but could do nothing. “I am a poor and helpless widow,” she said. “I didn’t have money to spend on lawyers.” Gulzar was tortured to death in jail in 1999. “I went from pillar to post to seek justice,” recalled Zainab with tears in her eyes.

After Gulzar’s death, Bakhshan kept trying to take action against the police officers responsible for his brother’s death. “Finally we were able to lodge a case at the Rohri police station against six policemen, including the jail superintendent, Major Ghulam Hussain Khoso,” she said.

Zainab believes this is why Bakhshan developed enmities. “They kept waiting for a chance to equal the score.”

To add to her agony, her third son Mehboob died shortly afterwards from hepatitis. “My other son, Ghulam Sarwar is a drug addict and the youngest, Waheed, is jobless,” said Zainab.

Bakhshan retired from the police in 1996 for medical reasons. “He began to drive a taxi,” his mother continues to caress his picture while she talks.

Bakhshan Otho told The Express Tribune that on July 1, 2000, he was on his way to Khairpur from Garhi Mori, when seven armed men stopped him. Three men entered the taxi and ordered him to keep driving. When they reached University Road, the excise police stopped them.

The men opened fire at the police. An inspector, Sultan Ahmed Shaikh, died and constable, Latif Dino Manganhar, was injured.  Later, a heavy contingent of police reached the spot and one of the attackers, Usman Bhand, was killed in an encounter, while the others escaped.

“The police arrested me,” he said. The police registered three separate cases against Bakhshan, and one of them was for possessing arms. “But I was unarmed,” he claimed.

His case was tried in the Anti-Terrorism Court Sukkur and he was sentenced to death in 2002. “My appeal was rejected by the Sindh High Court,” Bakhshan said. “Then I filed an appeal in the Supreme Court in 2006 but nothing has been done so far.” He gets 4,500 rupees per month as pension from the police department and earns 5,000 rupees more, in jail, by making Sindhi caps. ‘I hand the money over to my mother who looks after my six children,” said Bakhshan. He appealed to the chief justice of the Supreme Court to consider his case on humanitarian basis and provide justice.

“I don’t have money, but I appeal to the chief justice of Pakistan to help me in the name of Allah,” cried Mai Zainab.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 24th,  2011.