"One is absolutely sickened, not by the crimes that the wicked have committed, but by the punishments that the good have inflicted." -- Oscar Wilde

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Pakistan: Hangman shares his thoughts

Pakistan: Erecting gallows amidst an execution frenzy
Pakistan: Erecting gallows amidst an execution frenzy
An executioner has revealed that his mind is a perfect blank when he takes the life of another human being.

Hangman Sabir Massih said he never feels anything when he ties the noose around the neck of a prisoner and pulls the lever on a trapdoor, sealing their fate.

"I don't think about them at all," he told BBC correspondent Shaimaa Khalil. "For me, it's a technical thing. We have 3 minutes flat to get this done, so I try to do it as quickly as possible. I want to get there on time, I want to go in and out in the time that's allocated and I want to do the job right."

The Pakistani's relatives have been in the business of death for generations. His father, uncles, grandfather and great-grandfather were all hangmen before him. "It's just part of our family," he said.

Pakistan lifted a 7-year moratorium on the death penalty last year after massacre of 150 students at a school in Peshawar by Taliban militants. More than 200 death-row inmates have been hanged in the past 8 months, and the country now has one of the highest execution rates in the world, alongside Iran, Saudi Arabia and China.

Massih told the reporter that even the very 1st time he took a life, he was calm. "I had only seen 1 hanging before, that was done by my father," he said. "It was him who taught me at home how to tie a noose properly.

"The superintendent of the jail reassured me and said that there is no reason to get confused or to be anxious. He gave me the signal, I pulled the lever and opened the trap. It was only after I looked that I saw the person hanging. It was a matter of seconds."

Massih's real passion is breeding roosters for cock fighting, and he reserves his emotion for the birds. "This is what I think about when I go home," he said.

Reporter Khalil told Public Radio International that she suspected his complete detachment was a coping mechanism, and he had to maintain a matter-of-fact attitude to the grisly job.

He said prisoners sometimes begged for forgiveness, and others could hardly walk to the gallows. In one case, two convicted militants hugged each other before their joint execution, one saying he could already "smell paradise". Regardless, Massih would be waiting silently, with a black cloth to slip over their heads and the noose in his hands.

This hangman is not the strange, solitary figure we might imagine. He has the support of his friends and the community, many of whom are grateful for the return of the death penalty.

This month Shafqat Hussain, who was convicted of murdering a child, was one of those executed, and many believed justice was being served. Hussain was only 14 when he was convicted, and human rights groups say he was tortured into confessing, but their protests were brushed aside.

Massih does not feel righteous, but sees death as his duty and the job he is paid to do. At the end of the day, he rushes home to his roosters, putting his deadly day's work out of his head.

Source: news.com.au, August 19, 2015

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