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    Monday, 22 January 2018

    Pakistani national in Indonesian prison diagnosed with stage-4 cancer:

    Zulfiqar Ali, a Pakistani national on death row in Indonesia, has been diagnosed with stage-4 liver cancer, Justice Project Pakistan (JPP) said in a press release on Monday.
    The 53-year-old, who was arrested in Indonesia on drug-related charges in 2004, is already suffering from chronic liver cirrhosis and Diabetes Mellitus, the press release reads. Given his condition, doctors have estimated his life expectancy to be three months.
    JPP, a human rights organisation that provides free-of-cost legal counsel to "vulnerable Pakistani prisoners" in overseas jails, had also urged the Pakistani government to address Ali's case during Indonesian President Joko Widodo's visit to Pakistan later this month.
    Ali's case came to light in 2016, when Indonesia notified the Pakistani embassy in Jakarta that he would be executed in a case related to possession of 300-grammes of heroin. However, his execution was halted after rights groups and the United Nations appealed to the Indonesian government, which was followed by diplomatic intervention from the Pakistani government.
    He was arrested at his home without a warrant in Indonesia’s West Java province. For three days, he was “kicked, punched and threatened with death” by the Soekarno-Hatta Airport district police until he was forced to sign a “self-incriminating confession”, the JPP said.
    The organisation at the time had said that Ali had to be rushed into an emergency stomach and kidney surgery due to the severity of the physical torture he was subjected to. He remained in the hospital for 17 days, for which the expenses had to be borne by his family, and he still suffered from a number of medical issues as a result.
    “Ali, the father of six, was not provided a lawyer for a month, and no one from the Pakistan embassy was contacted. He was detained for over three months before being brought to the first trial hearing. And even though his confession was coerced, as Ali recalled in detail during the trial, the judge allowed it to be used as evidence.”
    The JPP had said Ali did not speak the local language and received limited translation assistance throughout his detention and court proceedings.
    “Ali told the prosecutor that the report against him was false and had been obtained through torture. During the proceedings, the prosecutor asked him to admit whatever the police said, saying that otherwise he would be given a higher sentence. Ali told the court that he had been tortured by the police. Photographs were available to the court which evidenced this. When he refused to accept the report, a bribe of 400 million Indonesian rupiahs was demanded to reduce the sentence from capital punishment to 10-15 years. Ali refused to pay the bribe and continued to proclaim his innocence.”
    After the case was highlighted by rights groups, the then prime minister Nawaz Sharif made a last-ditch effort to make the Indonesian government halt the execution that was successful.
    Pakistan national Zulfiqar Ali is facing imminent execution in Indonesia after being convicted of drug-related charges in a controversial trial.
    “Kill me 10 times if I’m found guilty. I’m ready for it. But if I’m innocent then please spare my life,” Zulfiqar told DawnNews.
    “We leave our country only to make lives of our family better. We don’t go to other countries to get involved in criminal activities.”
    He urged the Pakistan government to take up his case with the Indonesian authorities. Zulfiqar believed that his execution could still be put on hold if both the governments take up the matter on embassy level.
    Pakistani national Zulfiqar Ali. —Photo courtesy: The Guardian
    Pakistani national Zulfiqar Ali. —Photo courtesy: The Guardian
    Indonesian authorities notified his family in Gujranwala that Zulfiqar would soon face a firing squad, after he was transferred to Nusakambangan prison island, where executions take place.
    “Please save my brother,” his sister said. “He means a lot to us. I don’t know what authorities to ask to, I can only request to please save my brother. He is the only person to look after us.”
    “I talked to him over the phone. He says he is innocent, he hasn’t done anything. He has been framed for a crime he never committed,” she told DawnNews.
    “Zulfiqar told me that the Indonesian authorities just don’t listen to anything he says. They say they are going to execute him. I’m appealing to the Government of Pakistan to do something. We don’t have time … I can only pray to God that they be merciful towards my brother.”
    Zulfiqar, 52, is the only brother to six sisters. He has been languishing in Indonesian jails for 12 years, and was the sole breadwinner for his family.
    He was arrested in November 2004 in connection with a 300-gram heroine case in Jakarta. A co-accused in the case, Gurdip Singh, retracted his statement against Zulfiqar, saying the confession had been coerced from him.
    Meanwhile, Pakistan government has intensified its diplomatic efforts for saving Zulfiqar.
    Adviser to the Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz, who is in Laos for an Asean (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) Regional Forum meeting, has sought a meeting with his Indonesian counterpart Retno Marsudi on the issue, Dawn reported on Tuesday.
    Indonesian Ambassador Iwan Suyudhie Amri was also summoned to the Foreign Office over the expected execution.

    Pressure mounts to call off looming executions

    Indonesia will be “on the wrong side of history” if it proceeds with a fresh round of executions this week, rights groups warned Wednesday, as authorities confirmed 14 prisoners will face the firing squad.
    Zulfiqar is a part of the group of drug convicts who have been given notices of their executions and could be put to death as early as Friday.
    Indonesia – which has some of the toughest anti-drugs laws in the world – executed 14 drug convicts, mostly foreigners, in two batches last year.
    Activists intensified pressure on Indonesia’s leader this week, urging him not to proceed with the third round of executions since he took office in October 2014.
    “Indonesian President Joko Widodo, popularly known as ‘Jokowi’, will be putting his government on the wrong side of history if he proceeds with a fresh round of executions,” Amnesty International said in a statement.
    “Sadly, he could preside over the highest number of executions in the country’s democratic era at a time when most of the world has turned its back on this cruel practice,” added the group’s Southeast Asia head Josef Benedict.
    Human Rights Watch urged Widodo to call off the executions and avoid a “potential diplomatic firestorm”, referring to the global criticism Indonesia attracted when it put to death eight drug convicts in April 2015.
    Activists lobbying on behalf of Zulfiqar said they would also consider making a final appeal, despite alleging their 52-year-old client was tortured into confessing.
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