I WAS BORN in 1979 to a loving family and had a happy childhood. We all lived a humble life. 18th July 2001 was just an ordinary day until the murder took place. To date, I still don’t know all the details of that fateful day. In total, five people – including myself – were accused of having illicit relations with a woman and killing her husband, who, as a landlord, was a powerful person. The trial lasted two and a half years. Another defendant and I were sentenced to death; two others were punished with life imprisonment.
When I was in jail, I knew that this would be a waste of my time, so I thought I might as well do something.During this time, I decided I should better myself and complete my education. I started by learning the Quran, then I finished my schooling. I completed my matriculation and intermediate (equivalent to high school). I then completed my undergraduate degree and started my Master of Arts in Islamic Studies, which I am hoping to complete soon. I taught myself calligraphy and still practice it to this day. I also started writing poetry. These hobbies provided some solace and hope.
I could not allow myself to have feelings while I was inside. I needed a heart of steel to be able to survive in jail on death row.
Being on death row made me truly understand the concept of death. During my incarceration I witnessed about 50 executions.It’s an experience that changes you forever.
I used to pray five times a day in my death cell. I knew I would be spending a lot of time there, so I had to be patient. I would eat when it was time. I would get to walk as well, but only within the block of death cells, which was about 40 feet square. I had to spend 22 hours per day in my cell.
Khawar, a co-accused, died while in confinement. He had a heart attack in the winter. It had a lot to do with jail negligence and the failure to treat him. I got hepatitis while I was confined but, thankfully, I recovered.
I became a religious teacher while incarcerated, so I was called teacher (ustaad). Thanks to my neat handwriting and my unwillingness to be corrupted – I could have easily been paid more than PKR 5000 – I was soon entrusted with the role of office clerk (munshi). My family was very proud of me for this. They would send blankets for the other prisoners in the winter.