Pak hangman looks for a new job
Last Updated: Wednesday, August 03, 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.


First Published: Wednesday, August 03, 2011, 15:35

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