Of Journalism

‘Either hang me or release me’

By Fawad Ali Shah

KARACHI: For the past nine years, 85-year old Abdul Latif has been lying in a dungeon of the Central Jail. His white hair is caked with the dirt of his cell. His weathered shoes tell a tale of the hard times they have gone through. “Either hang me or release me,” the prisoner asked the authorities in a letter.
Latif is one of the hundreds of aged prisoners in the country who are slowly fading away, as they wait for their fate to be decided by the authorities; their cases are pending due to some reason or the other.
“Maaf karo baba,” a tired Latif says. “Tamasha na banao.” His cellmates say that he is an extremely moody person who sometimes suddenly bursts into tears and sometimes smiles for no reason. The aged man still wants to do his work himself. Time has eaten away his strength but has fueled his ego.
Jibran, a friend of Latif’s in jail, says that when Latif first entered the jail he was a polite man, however, time and experience has changed him and now he is rude to everyone who approaches him.
When standing in court he stares at children, trying to remember what his children and grandchildren look like. A police officer, Muhammad Jibran, who guards Latif’s cell, said that he talks less, however, in prison he is a typical elder who knows the art of storytelling. “His favourite story is that of entering Karachi for the first time and looking at the roads in awe and amazement,” Jibran, who has become friends with Latif says.
According to the police, Latif had allegedly killed the brother-in-law and uncle of his daughter. He was living with his son-in-law and on some domestic dispute he got angry and stabbed the two persons.
An FIR (177/2000) had been lodged against him at the Khwaja Ajmeer Nagri Police Station, under CrPC (302). The police officials claim that, since then, his trial is underway. Court officials of the Additional District and Sessions Judge Muhammad Yameen Khan claim that his case has been in pending because witnesses in the case, both officials and non-officials, have not been appearing in court.
However, they say the case will be decided soon, as the court has issued non-bailable warrants for the witnesses of the case.
Sleeping on the stone cold dirty cell in the Central Jail, Latif wonders, asking God whether he will get even a ghost of a chance to see and play with his children and chat with his old friends.
“Sometimes he wakes up trembling and cries or he gets up laughing and names some people,” his prison mates revealed. The old man doesn’t like it when someone asks him his story. “I want to either die or be free, that’s it.”



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