Fri, Oct 20, 2006 - Page 5 News List

Pakistan's president delays execution

BAD TIMING The government denied Pervez Musharraf postponed the hanging to ensure that it would not coincide with a visit by Britain's Prince Charles and his wife


Pakistan yesterday denied postponing the execution of a British man under pressure from London, adding that the two-month delay was meant to give relatives time to reach a compromise.

President Pervez Musharraf put back the Nov. 1 hanging of Mirza Tahir Hussain following an appeal by British Prime Minister Tony Blair and after Prince Charles, who visits Pakistan at the end of the month, also expressed interest.

"It has nothing to do with what the British leadership has to say. There was no pressure and we do not accept ultimatums from anybody," Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Tasnim Aslam said.

"It is basically to give the families as much time as possible so that they are able to work out something," she said.

It is the fourth time the Pakistani leader has spared Mirza Tahir Hussain. The 36-year-old dual British-Pakistani national was 18 when he was arrested for killing a taxi driver shortly after arriving in Pakistan to visit relatives in 1988.

"We have just received a stay order from Aiwan-i-Sadar [the Presidency]," an official at Adiala Jail in Rawalpindi, where Hussain is imprisoned, said on condition of anonymity.

A new execution date has been set for Dec. 31, the official said.

Hussain thanked Prince Charles and Blair for their intervention in his case in a mobile phone interview with BBC radio broadcast before his sentence was delayed.

"I am grateful to His Royal Highness for showing interest in my plight. I am also grateful to Prime Minister Blair for his continued representation," Hussain said.

"I am hoping that President Musharraf will not send me to the gallows when he himself has expressed doubts about the safety of my conviction," he said.

Officials say that while it reportedly remains in Musharraf's power to offer clemency, he does not want to be seen overriding the courts or bowing to Western pressure.

The British High Commission in Islamabad earlier said that Prince Charles would still visit with his wife Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, despite calls to stay away in protest.

The royal tour, his first to Pakistan, is scheduled between Oct. 29 and Nov. 3.

"As far as we are concerned the [Charles and Camilla] visit is still going ahead and we want it to go ahead," High Commission spokesman Aidan Liddle told said. "It is a really important visit."

Charles is due to meet Musharraf and Pakistani Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz during his trip.

The prince's spokesman confirmed he had been "concerned over this case for some time" and had personally raised the matter with Aziz.

Blair on Wednesday said he had made a personal representation over the case to Musharraf during his recent visit to London.

"I hope even at this stage that there is an intervention to ensure this does not take place. I think it would be very serious if it does," Blair said when asked about the case in the House of Commons.

Greg Mulholland, the member of parliament who represents Hussain's home constituency, called for the royal tour to be cancelled saying it would be "monstrous" to go ahead when a Briton was to be executed.

Hussain told police that he acted in self-defense after the driver tried to sexually assault him, but he was convicted in 1989. In 1996 he was cleared by the high court but an Islamic Shariah court took control of the case and imposed the death penalty. His family have been unable to negotiate a "blood money" deal with relatives of the victim.

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