Pakistan’s death row prisoner Aftab Bahadur: ‘On Wednesday I will be taken to the gallows and hanged’

The moving last letter to the outside world of Christian Pakistani who is set to hang in Lahore’s Kot Lakhpat prison.

By Aftab Nazir Bahadur

Aftab Bahadur Masih in 1992.

My name is Aftab Nazir Bahadur. I was born on the 30th day of the month of June in 1977, but it looks like I may not see my 39th year.

I am set to be hanged on Wednesday. They will take me to the gallows in the middle of the night and that, I suppose, will be that after all this time.

Indeed, it has been a long time — more than 22 years — since I was arrested for something I did not do in September 1992. I was just 15 years old then, and now I have spent most of my life waiting on Death Row.

I must admit that I feel hopelessness, but I look to God for help. I have watched several people go to their deaths over the years — many more in the past months since the moratorium was lifted in December.

Each time someone is led away, I pray for his life and forgiveness — maybe forgiveness for the crime he committed, but if he is innocent, maybe I just pray that God should forgive his sins, as I would for any of us.

Many years ago now, when I heard the judge pronounce the death sentence, I was shocked, my mind was paralysed. They say here in Pakistan that they “award” you the death penalty: it was beyond anything I could imagine, because the judge was sentencing me to the ultimate punishment for something that I didn’t do.

People ask whether I would not just rather go ahead and die, after all this time on death row. But no, I do not prefer death because then I would be wasting my life, and that is a sin. I just pray for the mercy of God. And perhaps there is someone with power who can show mercy here on Earth as well.

I try to keep up hope. I try to do something with my time. I like painting, so I keep myself busy that way. I do it to keep my disappointment and hopelessness at arm’s length from me, each day in my prison cell. I am hopeful that God will “award” me freedom and better future.

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