Press Release, March 7
LAHORE: The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has urged the president and the army chief to set aside the death sentence of a man, who is due to be executed on March 12, because he was denied basic rights during his trial.
In a statement, HRCP said that Zahid Masih, a sanitary worker with Pakistan Army since 2001, was tried by a military court and sentenced to death in 2006. HRCP said that Masih had been denied his basic right to defend himself, be represented by a lawyer and was allegedly beaten to extract a confession.
Two years prior to his conviction, Masih had “disappeared” from his workplace in Chirat cantonment. Zahid’s family later found him on the death row in the Peshawar Central Jail. He had been found guilty and sentenced to death on 10 March 2006.
Masih told his family that he had been in military custody for two years prior to his conviction and was severely tortured to confess to the murder. It is alleged that he was not provided any legal representative during the military trial. He was only allowed to communicate with his parents after the military court had convicted him.
He alleged that some orderlies of officers persuaded him that if he confessed the officers would help him. Another said that Masih’s confession would save the image of Pakistan Army. When allowed to meet his family in early 2008, Masih told them that messengers from officers of Chirat cantonments convinced him that he would be absolved of charges if he confessed. He alleged that another military personnel at the cantonment had committed the offence for which he had been framed for being the weakest person.HRCP called on Musharraf to show clemency and set aside Masih’s execution in view of lack of representation, Masih’s illegal detention and torture in custody. The commission urged the army chief to cancel Masih’s sentence as it had been passed by a military court.