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Mentally ill death row prisoner dies in hospital.

Byline: Asif Chaudhry

LAHORE -- A mentally ill prisoner, who spent the last 16 years of his life on death row waiting for justice, died of health complications at Jinnah Hospital here late Thursday night.

Khizar Hayat, 56, was taken to Jinnah Hospital by the jail authorities a week ago after he stopped taking food following health complications. From the emergency unit, he was shifted to the hospital's medical unit where a team of senior medics headed by Prof Abbas Raza was treating him.

Jinnah Hospital's medical superintendent Dr Asim Hameed told Dawn that the prisoner was diagnosed with mental and other health complications and it would be premature to say the exact cause of his death. He said the body had been shifted to the morgue for confirmation of the cause of death.

Survived by four children and mother, Khizar was reported by the jail authorities as 'severely anaemic and hypotensive'.

Justice Project Pakistan (JPP) executive director Sarah Belal said Khizar was shifted on a feeding tube by doctors. His condition kept deteriorating and he fell unconscious during his final hours.

Just two months ago, Khizar's life was spared after former chief justice of Pakistan Saqib Nisar suspended his fourth execution warrant on Jan 14.

Ms Belal said the suspension came in the wake of a public campaign propelled by civil society, psychiatrists, artists and journalists highlighting the plight of the mentally ill death row prisoner online and in the media. The United Nations experts had also urged the government to halt the execution.

A two-judge bench referred Khizar's case to a larger bench of the Supreme Court currently hearing the cases of two other schizophrenic death row prisoners Imdad Ali and Kanizan Bibi.

'This case is likely to set a precedent for mentally ill death row prisoners in Pakistan,' Ms Belal said. Unfortunately, she added, Khizar had passed away before any progress could be made in the case. His mercy petition also remained pending before the president of Pakistan.

'Khizar was first diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia by jail authorities in 2008,' she said, adding that Khizar spent the last six years alone in his cell in the jail hospital, and in his final years he lost awareness of his surroundings.

In 2010, the jail medical officer recommended that Khizar needed specialised treatment and should be shifted to a psychiatric facility. However, this was never done.

In 2017, the Lahore High Court had stayed the execution of Khizar Hayat, but rejected his mother's appeal for a stay in December last year. A district and sessions court in Lahore subsequently fixed Khizar's execution for Jan 15 this year before it was suspended by the SC. Black warrants for Khizar had been issued thrice previously in all instances his execution was stayed.

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Publication:Dawn (Karachi, Pakistan)
Geographic Code:9PAKI
Date:Mar 23, 2019
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