LAHORE, 4 October 2017: Justice Project Pakistan (JPP)launches its campaign ‘Bus Kar Do’ to raise awareness against death penalty by enacting stories of prisoners on death row.
Pakistan has executed 477 prisoners since it lifted the moratorium on the death penalty in Dec. 2014. That averages out to nearly 4 prisoners a week. Data on executions shows that the death penalty in Pakistan has failed to meet its goals, and its use must be halted.
On Oct 10, World Day Against the Death Penalty will be observed globally. JPP, in collaboration with Azad Theatre and Highlight Arts, has organized a week-long bus tour. The bus would be traveling from Sahiwal to Karachi with brief stays and performances at Sahiwal, Multan, Sukkur, and Hyderabad. The final performance would be held in Karachi on 10th October, 2017. Each city has been selected for being home to a Central Jail – which are prisons where executions take place.
They will be stopping in the heart of the local communities in each city, and performing ‘Intezaar – The Wait’ – an interactive street-theatre piece that takes an intimate look at the lives of prisoners on death row. All the stories are based on real-life cases of condemned prisoners in Pakistan. Many of them continue to be on death row, while others were executed after the Government of Pakistan resumed executions. The bus departed for Sahiwal from the Lahore Press Club at 11 a.m. on 4 October, 2017.
Bus Kar Do seeks to highlight how Pakistan’s death penalty disproportionately and systematically targets its poorest and most vulnerable citizens. This is in line with this year’s global theme of ‘poverty and injustice’ that World Day Against the Death Penalty will follow.
By staging performances and conducting additional activities to engage local communities, JPP seeks to educate Pakistanis about the plight of the most vulnerable prisoners on death row, their journey through the criminal justice system and how many are denied proper legal representation and basic fair trial protections in the criminal justice system that is rife with corruption and beholden to power.
Once the play concludes, JPP will be setting up a space to better acquaint the audience with the country’s legal infrastructure and the fundamental rights of prisoners under our Constitution. The audience will have a chance to speak with former prisoners, participate in a selfie booth and installations. There will be activities designed for children, and a postcard booth where audience members can write to President Mamnoon Hussain – asking for clemency for Abdul Basit – a paralyzed prisoner who has been on death row for the past 10 years and twice came within seconds of being executed in 2015, before eventually being granted temporary relief.
Intezaar was originally developed with JPP creative partners Ajoka Theatre Pakistan and Complicite Creative Learning.
Sarah Belal, JPP Executive Director, says: “With Bus Kar Do, we are looking to create a space to tell the stories of the most vulnerable Pakistanis and through that, bring increased awareness about how the death penalty is imposed and carried out in Pakistan. Unless we mobilize public support for reform in our criminal justice system, many are going to continue to slip through the cracks. These communities will be offered a glimpse into the lives of those jailed right in their cities, and we hope this will remind them that the imposition of the death penalty is never their problem, until it is.”