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British national appeals to Musharraf for clemency

03 November, 2006

LAHORE: A file photo of Mirza Tahir Hussain taken at Kot Lakhpat Jail. Tahir, a Pakistan-born British National who is facing death penalty on charges
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RAWALPINDI: Mirza Tahir Hussain, a Pakistan-born British national who is facing death penalty on the charges of killing a local taxi driver 18 years ago, has once again appealed to President General Pervez Musharraf for clemency.

"I have already served one and half time more than the life term in jail. That also for a crime I did not commit. I appeal to the President to grant me clemency on purely humanitarian grounds," he said in an exclusive interview with Weekly Pulse.

"I fully understand that Pakistan is an independent and sovereign nuclear state. The European Union, British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Royal Highness Prince Charles are not pressuring Pakistan; rather, they are requesting for my clemency purely on humanitarian grounds and because of my status as British national," he said.

Having spent the entire prime time of his life behind bars, Mirza Tahir is confined to a small solitary cell in Rawalpindi`s Adiala Jail. Media access to him is next to impossible. Only officials of the British High Commission in Islamabad visit him regularly.

He thanked the media for campaigning for his rights. He did not appear to care much about his life. The long life behind bars seemed to have made him a religious person.

During the course of our rather short interview, Mirza Tahir frequently sought Allah`s forgiveness even for a crime he had not committed-admitting that perhaps he had to go through all of this misery for some other sins committed in his teenage times. "I have already served one and half time more than the life term in jail. I understand I have been punished for my sin," he said.

"There are several precedents that clemency was granted to death convicts during the regimes of former president General Zia ul Haq, former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto and incumbent president General Pervez Musharraf. Therefore, I also deserve clemency on humanitarian grounds," Mirza Tahir said.

To a question about the efforts of EU, Prime minister Blair and Prince Charles and external pressure on Pakistan with reference to his death sentence, he said, "Pakistan is an independent and sovereign nuclear state and no one can exert pressure on it. Besides being a British national, I am a Pakistani citizen too. Therefore, my mercy appeal should be accepted on humanitarian grounds."

"Several diplomatic channels and government functionaries are striving to secure my release," he said, adding: "(PML-Q President) Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain and (PML-Q General Secretary) Mushahid Hussain have also met my family members and the family members of the deceased. Several jirgas have also been held on this count. I hope for clemency after payment of diyat. This is in accordance with the spirit of Islam." Mirza Tahir went on to say that some devilish people have disrupted the process each time the matter was close to settlement. They are still trying to prevent settlement of my case."

Giving details of the incident that led to his conviction, Mirza Tahir said that he came up to Pakistan 18 years ago from Britain to see meet relatives. "I hired a taxi to proceed to my village from Islamabad Airport. I agreed to pay Rs 500 as taxi fare. The taxi driver however stopped the taxi near Sihala and tried to rob me at gunpoint. A scuffle broke out, during which the taxi driver took out a pistol. During the row, a bullet was fired. I don`t remember if it was fired by me, or by the taxi driver, but the weapon belonged to the deceased. The taxi driver died from the bullet wound."

He continued: "After the incident, I tried to intercept many vans while standing alongside the road in injured condition. However, none of the vans stopped. Then I started walking and reached a petrol pump after some time. The Police were patrolling there. I told them the whole story and reached the scene along with the police. The taxi driver had died in the meantime. The Police registered a robbery case against me despite the fact that I had engaged in the scuffle purely in self-defense. I was all alone coming from the UK by air to meet my relatives. How can I acquire or carry weapon while traveling from the Airport to my village?"

According to Mirza Tahir, he was then interrogated in the Sihala Police Station for a week and was subjected to violence during the investigation. "Later I was shifted to Rawat Police Station. Rawat police was of the view that many accused were wanted by them in robbery cases of similar nature. There, I was beaten up mercilessly."

Mirza Tahir Hussain revealed during the interview that residential phone number and other identification documents were recovered by police from the pocket of deceased taxi driver at the time when he informed them about the incident. The Police contacted his family members by telephone. Sohbbat Khan, uncle of deceased came up in police station. They spent one and half hour at petrol pump. A robbery case was afterwards registered against him.

Mirza Tahir also informed Weekly Pulse that several jirgas had been held with the family members of the deceased. "Dua-e-Khair has also been offered. But certain miscreants are bent upon spoiling the case," he said in a bitter mood.

Narrating his jail life that spread over 18 years, he said, "I spent 5 years in Kot Lakhpat jail and the remaining in Adiala jail. However, I have not faced any major problem in both places. I spend most of my time here in worshiping Almighty Allah and seeking forgiveness from Him."

Regarding the judicial system in Pakistan, Mirza Tahir said both the Sharia and British laws were in place simultaneously in the country. "This state of affairs gives rise to complications. I think there should be one law in the country, either of Sharia or British law." Concerning the possibility of any deal with the family members of the deceased taxi driver, he said, " We have never closed the doors to reconciliation with them during the last 18 years. I hope that the family members of deceased will pardon me." On the question of Diyat, he said, "We are ready to pay the amount of money prescribed by Islam in this connection. However it will be hard for us to collect a huge sum, as my family has been rendered penniless due to heavy legal expenses incurred by us on the case."

To a question if he would like to stay in Pakistan or Britain if released, he said his family members would take any decision in this respect. What touched us most during the interview was the emotional concern Mirza Tahir has for his mother.

"My mother has suffered more than me. She has been physically ill. Her mental health is also not good. I am most worried about my mother, and am dying to see her. I pray for her every moment here."


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