LAHORE: The nation's human rights commission today appealed to President Mamnoon Hussain to stop the imminent execution of a mentally-ill man sentenced for killing a cleric here 15 years ago.
The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), in a comminique, brought to President Hussain's attention the disposal of a plea by the Supreme Court last week in support of death row prisoner Imdad Ali who has been diagnosed with schizophrenia.
The court concluded that simply because schizophrenia was a "recoverable disease", it did not fall within the definition of "mental disorder" under the Mental Health Ordinance, 2001.
HRCP expressed serious concerns regarding the reasoning of the court in the matter and stated that the decision raised the question whether judges could decide on matters which — by their very nature —needed to be judged on the basis of expert advice.
HRCP said in reaching this conclusion, the apex court had disregarded universally recognised diagnostic tools, including the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) and jurisprudence under Pakistani case law on mental health, and had instead relied upon Indian case law, in particular on a reported judgment by India's Supreme Court on the Hindu Marriage Act regarding dissolution of marriage.
It said the court ruling also sets a dangerous precedent for the treatment of accused persons with schizophrenia by the criminal justice system.
It called upon the president to urgently intervene to ensure that Ali's imminent execution is halted and the hanging of mentally-ill persons is abandoned.
The Supreme Court ruled that schizophrenia is "not a permanent mental disorder" but a "recoverable disease" that could be treated by drugs.
Ali was diagnosed with schizophrenia in prison in 2012. He has been ordered to be executed on November 2 in a prison in the city of Vehari, 300 kms from Lahore.
The 50-year-old was sentenced to death for the murder of a religious cleric in 2002.
Pakistan reinstated the death penalty and established military courts after suffering its deadliest-ever terrorist attack when Taliban gunmen stormed an army school in Peshawar in December 2014 and killed 150 people, mostly children.
Since then, over 425 death row prisoners — mostly convicted for terrorist activities — have been hanged.