Pak hangman looks for a new job

Last Updated: Wednesday, August 3, 2011 - 16:44

Islamabad: A Pakistani hangman, who has
executed over 200 people, says he is looking for a new job as
there have been no executions in more than two years and
President Asif Ali Zardari will not allow any hangings.

"I am looking for a new job, since as long as
President Zardari is in power, he will not allow any
hangings," said Sabir Masih, whose earliest memories are of
accompanying his father to the gallows.

Masih, a 27-year-old Christian, who is the hangman at
Lahore`s Kot Lakhpat Jail, said men from his family had been
hangmen since the era of British rule in the subcontinent.

"My grandfather`s brother was Tara Masih, the famous
executioner of (Zulfiqar Ali) Bhutto," he told The Express
Tribune newspaper.

With no executions in over two years, Masih said he
feels useless going to work now.

According to reports, around 7,000 prisoners are on
death row in Pakistan though the President stayed all hangings
in the country in November 2008.

Earlier the same year, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza
Gilani approved a cabinet decision to commute all death
sentences to life imprisonment.

This could not materialise after then Supreme Court
Chief Justice Abdul Hameed Dogar took suo moto notice of the
issue.

To avoid confrontation with the judiciary, the Law
Ministry tried to bring an amendment through parliament but
there has been little development because of pressure from
political and public circles in favour of the death penalty.

Masih, who has been a hangman for five years, said he
was nervous the first time he carried out an execution.

"I was a little nervous to put the noose around the
first time and to pull the latch. But the jail superintendent
supported me," he said.

He said he believed people on death row deserve
capital punishment if they have killed someone.

"I believe in the Bible and it teaches us, just like
the Quran, that it is an eye for an eye. People convicted for
murder do not deserve to live, unless the aggrieved party
pardons them," he said, adding that it is not for him to judge
the people he hangs.

Masih is paid Rs 10,000 a month and Rs 20 a hanging,
an amount that he does not collect at times since it is so
nominal.

He said the most peculiar hanging in his career was of
two brothers in Sahiwal, who came singing to the gallows.

"When the magistrate asked them to ask for forgiveness
from the victim`s family, the brothers started to hum a song
and laughingly responded saying they were rightly accused so
they deserved to be hanged. Some people cry. Most people just
pray," he said.

Some prisoners, on finding out that he is Christian,
ask the jail superintendent to get a Muslim to execute them.
"But such demands are rarely met since the convict`s
face is covered and he usually does not know who pulls the
latch," Masih said.

Sabir hanged more than 200 people during the first
three years of his career.

His cousin, a hangman, has travelled all over Punjab
for executions since there is a shortage of people in the
profession.

"I did my first century relatively quickly because
during (former President`s) Pervez Musharraf`s era there were
many executions.

Once I hanged five people in a day at the district
jail in Faisalabad," he says.

According to the NGO Human Rights Commission of
Pakistan, the country has one of the highest rates of capital
punishment in the world, with 27 offences that are punishable
by death.

PTI

First Published: Wednesday, August 3, 2011 - 15:35
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