Home Opinion Op-Ed Ghulam Abbas saved: CJP stays execution of mentally-Ill prisoner

Ghulam Abbas saved: CJP stays execution of mentally-Ill prisoner

Chief Justice of Pakistan, Justice Asif Saeed Khosa, has ordered a stay on the execution of death-row prisoner Ghulam Abbas on grounds of mental illness, after the tireless efforts spearheaded by the Justice Project Pakistan, federal Human Rights Minister Shireen Mazari, and Punjab MPA Aisha Chaudhry amongst others.

Ghulam

News Desk |

Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP), Justice Asif Saeed Khosa, ordered a stay on the execution of a mentally-ill convict, Ghulam Abbas, who had been on the death-row for around 15 years and scheduled for execution on 18th June, 2019.

Abbas had been sentenced to death in 2006 after being accused of stabbing a neighbour resulting in death, which led to his imprisonment in 2004. The petition was filed by Noor Jahan, Ghulam Abbas’ mother, as per the procedures outlined by Article 184 (3) of the Pakistan Constitution, earlier on Monday.

As per the court order, circulating on media, CJP Justice Asif Saeed Khosa issued the “order to stay the execution of death sentence to convict prisoner namely Ghulam Abbas”.

The doctors appointed by the jail authorities failed to look into Abbas’ family history, even though the jail psychiatrists had been treating him for over six months.

The order further added, “A Constitution Petition filed by mother of convict prisoner namely Ghulam Abbas, currently confined in Central Jail, Rawalpindi against the execution of death sentence to said convict prisoner on 18.6.2019.”

This order was issued after the Justice Project Pakistan filed an application in the Supreme Court, following the withdrawal of an independent psychiatric evaluation by the Punjab Home Department, which had previously permitted an independent psychiatrist and two public-sector doctors to visit Abbas at the Adiala Jail and present evaluation reports.

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Sarah Belal, the Executive Director of Justice Project Pakistan, noted “We are relieved to hear that the Supreme Court has stayed the execution of Abbas after the board of medical experts determined that he was suffering from mental disorders.”

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Prisoner Ghulam: Psychotic Illness & Hallucinations

The withdrawal of the permission to conduct a psychiatric evaluation was extremely disheartening for Abbas’ family, especially his widowed mother, who has tirelessly worked for legal relief for her only surviving son.

The stay on Abbas’ execution was only possible due to the commitment and dedication of Federal Human Rights Minister Shireen Mazari, Punjab MNA Ayesha Chaudhry and Parliamentary Secretary for Law and Justice, Maleeka Bokhari.

On Monday morning, the Punjab provincial government constituted a medical board, consisting of Professor Dr. Asad Tamizuddin Nizami, Dr. Muhammad Azeem Khan, and Professor Dr. Mehmood Ali Khan, hailing from the Benazir Bhutto Hospital.

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The Supreme Court ruling was ushered in after the medical board issued a confirmation of Ghulam Abbas’ mental illness. Reports circulating on media reveal that the doctor’s medical evaluation report noted that Ghulam Abbas exhibits “strong evidence of epilepsy with reported episodes of fits within the jail”.

Abbas had been sentenced to death in 2006 after being accused of stabbing a neighbour resulting in death, which led to his imprisonment in 2004.

It further added how there is ample “evidence of psychotic illness with hallucinations and behavioral disturbances” and the prisoner also suffers from a “depressive illness and is on treatment in the jail since April 24, 2019”.

The Justice Project Pakistan noted that the doctors who evaluated Ghulam Abbas have also “recommended an MRI Brain with contrast, EEG and psychological assessment for IQ, adding that Abbas needs further assessment and treatment”.

A medical report of the death-row prisoner provided by the jail authorities on Friday noted that Abbas was not suffering from any mental health ailment. However, a preliminary medical exam of Abbas’ medical records, conducted by renowned psychiatrist Dr. Malik Hussain Mubbashar, revealed strong evidence of epilepsy and psychosis. This report was confirmed by the medical examination ordered by the Punjab government.

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Execution of Mentally-Ill Prisoners

Abbas’s family members revealed that he had experienced a learning disability since childhood, which caused him to remain uneducated and unable to obtain basic schooling. They further highlighted that Abbas’ father suffered from mental illnesses and even attempted to kill himself by slitting his throat, but was saved due to prompt rescue by family members. However, Abbas’ father could not recover from his condition and died shortly after.

The Supreme Court ruling was ushered in after the medical board issued a confirmation of Ghulam Abbas’ mental illness.

Abbas has an extensive family history of mental health problems, his paternal aunt suffered from mental illnesses, while his sister was diagnosed with a neurological disorder that had to be treated by regularly draining fluid-buildup from her brain.

The doctors appointed by the jail authorities failed to look into Abbas’ family history, even though the jail psychiatrists had been treating him for over six months. They were grossly misguided while stating that the prisoner is just suffering from “mild depression”, despite prescribing him with a potent antipsychotic medication, Risperidone.

Abbas’ family also claimed that the prisoner has been suffering from Hepatitis and Tuberculosis, and has not been provided any treatment to address these medical concerns.

The legal framework and Islamic laws strongly forbid against the execution of mentally ill prisoners, and given the disfavors and negligence of the jail psychiatrist and psychiatric evaluation teams, if the execution had been carried, it would have been a gross violation of human rights and Islamic laws.

MPA Aisha Chaudhry tweeted her jubilance on receiving the news, and thanked Sarah Belal and the Justice Pakistan Project for allowing her to be a part of this initiative. Chaudhry tweeted, “There are moments in life when you understand why you are where you are, when you feel useful on earth. Today I had that moment. Ghulam Abbas will not be hanged tonight coz we did what was required from us.”

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