Wednesday, 10 June 2015

A letter to Aftab Bahadur, executed in Pakistan this morning

Aftab Bahadur was executed in Pakistan this morning.  This is my letter to him.

Wesdesday 10th June, 2015.

Dear Aftab,

This is a letter to the dead. Not you, I know you are alive. But really I am writing to the living dead: the people who wrongfully arrested you when age just 15 for a crime you did not commit; the people who tortured you and who said you could go free if you paid their bribe, but you did not have the money to pay; the people who kept you locked up for 22 long years and who stole your life; the people who showed no mercy but executed you for political gain whilst the real killer, whoever that may be, walked free.

I knew of you just a very short time, maybe a few days at the most, before you were so cruelly hanged in Pakistan in the early hours of this morning. But during that short period you touched my heart and I know the hearts of thousands of other people too. I did what I think I could do in those few days to help raise awareness about your plight, I'm sorry it wasn't enough. Maybe I could have done something a little sooner, but maybe your fate was sealed a long time ago. Whatever the case, we trust in Our Lord that all things happen for a reason and we will try to bring something good out of your pain.

This is the first time I ever sat through a minute by minute countdown to an execution. It seems you have gone through that many times, before they decided to complete their act of inhumanity. You are one innocent soul, wrongfully executed, to join the many that went before you and sadly the many yet to come. And throughout this world every day now innocent people are being killed, one way or another. But every soul is important, and your life helped me to reconnect with that. When they killed you, it's like they killed the whole of humanity, that's true.

Your words were in the newspapers and on YouTube too, they were profound.

When I shut my eyes to listen I didn't feel you were a stranger thousands of miles away in a different country, it was like you were just there. Ah how I would have loved to meet you, and I hope one day I might have that honour. I can imagine you now, so full of life, enjoying the beauty of God's perfect creation, untainted by pollution, air so sweet, colours so vivid seen through eyes of perfect clarity. I can imagine the peace you inhale that reaches deep into every part of your being. I can imagine you smile now, after suffering for so long.

Twenty-two years in prison, oh that seems so very long. What did I do in twenty-two years? I started a business, got married, had two children, 5 different cars, and can you believe I've lived in 9 different homes! What did you do every day, day after day, waiting to die? Your life was stolen from you at the young age of 15, just as you were to become a man. And how your poor family must have suffered, and are still suffering now, may God give them comfort and strength and peace that your suffering is now over.

You are a Christian and I am a Muslim, you were born in Pakistan and I was born in England, we speak different languages and our skin colour is of different tone, but I have no doubt we are heading to the same destination where all our differences and misunderstandings will be explained. I see no great divide between us, our differences are riches, we were born brothers and sisters in mankind.

I don't know how they could kill you. I don't know how they can kill anyone but especially not you. Your case was clear, your heart open, but still some people seem so blind. What makes a heart so cold? Is it fear, or hatred, or greed? Is it that the truth is too painful to behold? I fail to understand, but I must try. Understanding must be a key to healing our troubled world.

I don't know what happened to mercy, I don't know where it went. In Islam our Prophet Muhammad came as a message of mercy to mankind, but it seems we lost that message somewhere along the way. I was told this morning after your execution that campaigning for mercy is useless. Does that sound funny to you? Because it sounds quite funny to me, that a Muslim should tell me such a thing, since without mercy Muhammad peace be upon him didn't have a message - that's what it was all about, the mercy, we were told. It says in our Hadith:
"The merciful are shown mercy by Ar-Rahman [The Merciful]. Be merciful on the earth, and you will be shown mercy from Who is above the heavens. The womb is named after Ar-Rahman, so whoever connects it, Allah connects him, and whoever severs it, Allah severs him."
So now honestly I am concerned for Pakistan, because there is a lot of hurt and resentment there following all the violence and killings that have taken place especially over the past year. It seems a lot of people want revenge, and it's the poor and vulnerable people like yourself that are at the receiving end of this upset. It seems that the rich pay their way out of prison whilst the poor take their place at the gallows, used as scapegoats so that corrupt leaders can say that they are delivering 'justice' - any poor scapegoat will do.

Worldwide there is growing unrest, growing pain resulting in ever increasing killing. At some point people have to stop killing and learn how to forgive in their hearts and reconcile with their enemies if we are to see peace. Reconciliation is so hard, but we must try, if we are to build a better future for our children.

Some people ask me what my agenda is. This is another funny thing for me too. Why is it hard to believe that some people dedicate their lives to the betterment of mankind? I guess I'm hard to trust because I am British. Well I can't help that, that's just where I happened to be born, it doesn't make me any less of a human being where I was born.

Some people are saying that the organisation Reprieve is corrupt or something like that - that's just so crazy as well, I wish people would do their research before making such accusations. I wish people would realise what an amazing man is Clive Stafford Smith who stands with people through their darkest hour when the rest of the world has abandoned them. Reprieve is one of the most honourable organisations I know of - and to suggest they have a Western agenda really is hilarious - this organisation is like a thorn in the side to Western governments since they represent victims of injustice in Western countries too and for the Muslim victims wrongly imprisoned and brutally tortured in Guantanamo.

Just before you were executed I felt so nervous and sick, I can't imagine how much sicker and more nervous you must have felt. Then when the appointed time arrived, 4.30 am, I imagined the hood placed over your head and your body falling and jerking as your neck was strangled and your oxygen was severed. Then I thought of you hanging still, and afterwards I felt so cold. And then I felt my anger. But it's this anger that destroys the soul, I know that, so I resisted the anger, and writing this letter has helped me channel that anger into action for change. Now we have a battle on our hands, because there are 8,000 on the list to be executed in Pakistan and an estimated  800 of them are thought to have been children when sentenced. And it is not just in Pakistan that the death penalty has suddenly become fashionable, it is in many other countries too. I fear this is going to be a painful year. But we will push on for mercy, in your memory, and I know that we do have God with us and goodness will prevail in the end.

Thank-you for your life, may it shine forever in a better place where I hope to meet you one day, insha'Allah.

Love and peace, from your new sister Jamila

Please join me in preventing further such acts of inhumanity, by reading and sharing the document I wrote below, thankyou.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you Jamila for writing about Aftab Bahadur. I share your sentiments in this shameful and tragic miscarriage of justice. Pakistan's deeply flawed justice system needs to be addressed by those who can affect change. Children found "guilty" after being tortured to extract confessions and then executed - is the lowest form of human behavior and completely contradictory to Islam. The lack of compassion, blindness toward a vile and corrupt system is directly against Islam's insistence on mercy.

    I praise those (Muslims and non- Muslims) who put great effort into trying to save Aftab and hope they will continue to help save others. As a Muslim, I am saddened and angry. Islam states to protect the vulnerable and weak and not to exploit or abuse. The Pakistani (in)justice system should re-evaluate what they are doing within a Muslim society and stop killing innocents.

    May Allah grant mercy on Aftab's soul. He was a Christian and I hope the gates of heaven are opened for him and all those who faced a similar end. His poverty (like so many others) was the root cause of his fate.