ISLAMABAD: How does a condemned person feel in the 24 hours before execution? In Pakistan, one of the world’s top executioners, an unprecedented artistic performance lays bare what happens when a life is ended behind prison walls, reports AFP.
The project, dubbed “No Time to Sleep”, saw actor Sarmad Khoosat embody “Prisoner Z”, locked in isolation for his last hours in this world, in a live-streamed 24-hour performance which ended at the stroke of midnight Wednesday.His story is inspired by a real case, that of an inmate named Zulfiqar Ali Khan, who spent 17 years on death row before being executed in 2015.
The project was launched by the Justice Project Pakistan (JPP), an organisation which seeks to defend the most vulnerable prisoners.
Its goal is to show “the sheer humanity of how, what a person goes through... what it actually takes up front and close when the state decides to take a human life,” said Sarah Belal, JPP director and the lawyer for Zulfiqar Ali Khan.
As the performance began at 12.00am on Wednesday, Z sat in his cell, faithfully reconstructed in a Lahore studio, and awaited his final hour.
Cameras broadcast his movements in real time on Dawn newspaper’s website.
Through them, Pakistanis watched Z talking to his guard, reading the Koran, and receiving the last, heartbreaking visit from his family.“We give permission for the state to execute in our name, so if we’re going to do that it’s our duty as citizens to be educated about how it’s actually done,” Belal said.
Executions generally take place “in the dark of night behind prisons... so it’s really removed from the society that’s taken that decision”.
The performance, unprecedented in Pakistan, was shown in universities and captivated social media, becoming a top trend in Pakistan and spurring widespread debate.
Many described watching the “jaw-dropping” performance for hours.
“It took me some time to recover from #notimetosleep - & I still don’t have the right words to express the impact this screening has had. I’ve never felt more confident in my choice to be against the death penalty,” said one viewer, Daanika Kamal.
Others criticised JPP for focusing on the experiences of the condemned man.