Pakistani authorities issue execution orders for mentally ill prisoner

Ali had received a last-minute stay of execution by the Supreme Court but the judgement expired last week with the new ruling. (Representative Image) Photograph:( AFP )

WION Islamabad, Islamabad Capital Territory, Pakistan Oct 26, 2016, 10.15 PM (IST)

After Pakistan's Supreme Court ruled that schizophrenia is "not a permanent mental disorder" and cannot be held as a ground for staying an execution, the authorities on Wednesday issued a death warrant against a mentally ill condemned prisoner. 

A criminal court on the request of the provincial Punjab government issued the death warrant for the convicted murderer, Imdad Ali. He will now be executed on November 2 in a prison in the city of Vehari, said the Justice Project Pakistan (JPP), which is providing Ali with counsel. 

"Imdad’s hanging will signal to the world that Pakistan does not take its human rights commitments and treaty obligations seriously," said Sarah Belal, JPP executive director.

Lawyers and rights groups argued that Ali cannot be executed as he cannot understand his crime and punishment. He was diagnosed with schizophrenia while in prison in 2012. He has spent 14 years on death row, with three years in solitary confinement in the jail hospital due to his schizophrenia. 

He had been sentenced to death for the murder of a religious cleric in 2002. Ali had received a last-minute stay of execution by the Supreme Court but the judgement expired last week, with the ruling that schizophrenia was a "recoverable disease" that could be treated by drugs, and not a mental disorder.

Rights groups have slammed the ruling, with Amnesty calling it "a deeply worrying development". Maya Foa, a director of Reprieve, last week called the Supreme court ruling "outrageous" and said it flies in the face of accepted medical knowledge.

"It is terrifying to think that a mentally ill man like Imdad Ali could now hang because judges are pretending that schizophrenia is not a serious condition," Foa said, demanding the Pakistan President's intervention.

Ali's counsel has already sent a mercy petition to President Mamnoon Hussain along with testimony from medical experts. It remains pending with his office since September 19.

The country had reinstated the death penalty and established military courts after suffering its deadliest-ever terrorist attack when gunmen stormed a school in the northwest in 2014 and killed more than 150 people, mostly children.

(WION with inputs from agencies)