ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s Supreme Court this month acquitted a man of murder he had been jailed for 19 years ago, unaware that he had died in custody two years previously.

“We have no words for how to return the 19 years of his life he spent in jail,” the judge Asif Saeed Khosa said as the judgment was handed down on October 6.

Khawaja Mazhar Hussain had lodged an appeal after he was convicted of murder sentenced to death in 2010. He had been charged and arrested in 1997.

“We have been fighting this case in the court since 1997 when my cousin Mazhar was accused of this murder,” Khawaja Saghir told Truth Tracker..

“A lot of money was spent and case hearings continued to prolong.”

In the years waiting for the appeal, the main complainant and witness passed away, as did Mazhar’s father and two uncles.

Mazhar was arrested in 1997 when his eldest child was eight years old and his youngest was a six month old baby.  His wife was living in Dhok Haider Ali, a suburb of Islamabad.

In 2015, country’s National Assembly was told that there are 1.7 million cases pending before the Supreme Court and lower courts. The number of pending cases in Supreme Court as on December 31, 2013 was 20,480 and the total designated strength of the judges in the apex court is 17 including chief justice.

The Supreme Court is currently hearing appeals against death sentences confirmed by high courts in 2010 and 2011.

“The responsibility of this death waiting for his appeal in jail falls on the judiciary,” the former president of Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) of Pakistan Qazi Anwar said.

“We have to have case management to dispose of this backlog,” he urged.

“There are some lacunas in the legal and justice system but overall it is not bad. There are administrative loopholes and every stakeholder including government, judiciary, lawyers, and administration have to pay serious attention to these issues to help reduce the burden on courts and end this years’ long backlog to dispense speedy justice,” Zafar Ali Shah, a lawmaker of the ruling party Pakistan Muslim League Nawazsaid. Another acquittal announced by the Supreme Court in October was of two inmates who had, unbeknown to the Supreme Court, already been hanged in 2015 for a separate murder case.

Their appeal had been rejected by the Supreme Court and their mercy petition had been turned down by the President.

Their lawyers had moved the court against their 2015 execution.

“The prison department has nothing to do with these issues. Every death warrant is issued by the court and we just implement it. The local court issues a black warrant after seeing the whole legal record and communication of the case,” Farooq Nazir, head of the department of jails for Punjab province, told Truth Tracker.

Only inmates who are on trial are taken to the courts, he said.

“We have lost our brother who is declared innocent by the top court,” Khawaja Mazhar Hussein’s cousin Saghir said. “We blame the country’s justice system for this tragedy,”


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