On March 18th, the execution of Shafqat Hussain, on death row for kidnapping and murdering a 7 year old child, was postponed due to doubts raised about his age at the time of his conviction. The Justice Project Pakistan (JPP) providing legal services to Shafqat, claimed that he was 14 years old at the time of his offence. The evidence presented created reasonable doubt, and led to the postponement of the hanging. Ever since, civil society and the media has taken swift sides, making a relatively straightforward investigation a circus of various “expert” opinions, none of which actually deal with the issue at hand in a scientific manner. An inquiry into the case, after enough doubts have been raised by Shafqat’s legal representatives, is not cause for debate. Official and media voices giving their conclusive thoughts on the matter and demanding that the hanging be executed without further ado, are unjustified in doing so. Not only does their demand dismiss the premise of the justice system, it is a rather suspect move largely because the investigation is of a scientific nature and there is not much room for ambivalence once a medical test is carried out.

The argument here is absolutely not about picking a side. There is no side to pick here, because the entire case has been thrown into darkness ever since the age of the convict came under the spotlight. It is about due process of law. It is not about being on the “side” of a murderer, but about seeing the process of justice through to the end, and that process dictates that anyone who is not an adult at the time of committing a crime, does not have to die as a penalty. The debate about the death penalty in Pakistan is already marred with question marks; why drag more dirt onto a process that cushions the great potential for miscarriage of justice by pushing for even quicker, even murkier, even darker executions? Whether the man hangs today or next month, why leave room for facts to surface later? Facts that might just give somebody who might have made a mistake possibly at age 14, a new shot at living.