Wrongfully Convicted, Terminally Ill: Zulfiqar Ali passes away in Indonesia

Zulfiqar Ali, a terminally ill Pakistani on death row in Indonesia, has passed away, Justice Project Pakistan (JPP), which had been advocating on his behalf, said in a public statement on Thursday.

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“Zulfiqar, 54, died from liver cancer which he had been diagnosed with in Dec 2017. He leaves behind 5 children and his wife, Siti. His mother, based in Lahore, was unable to fly to Jakarta to meet her son for the final time,” the JPP stated.

He passed away hours after being transferred to an Intensive Care Unit in an Indonesian hospital earlier in the day. Soon after he was admitted, the JPP had issued an urgent appeal to bring Ali back to Pakistan, noting that he had “just hours to live”.

Ali’s demise brings to an end the hectic campaign to overturn his wrongful conviction and repatriate him to Pakistan, where he wanted to breathe his last.

“It is with the heaviest heart that we announce the passing away of Zulfiqar Ali,” JPP said on Twitter late Thursday afternoon. “He is mourned by his family and lawyers, who fought for his life until the very end.”

The Foreign Office said that the government had been making efforts for his repatriation and now the Embassy of Pakistan in Jakarta is coordinating with Ali’s family to bring his body back to Pakistan.

The JPP had recalled that while visiting Pakistan, Indonesian President Joko Widodo had “promised Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi that he would grant Zulfiqar Ali clemency on humanitarian grounds.”

President Widodo had said during his visit that although Ali’s release was a legal matter, he would “look into the matter on humanitarian grounds”.

“The Government of Pakistan must urge President Widodo to pardon Zulfiqar in light of his terminal illness at the earliest, that has taken a turn for the worse, and the suffering he has already undergone as a result of his wrongful imprisonment,” the JPP had appealed in a press statement earlier today.

“We cannot save his life but we can remove his wrongful conviction so he can die a free man. A promise is a promise,” JPP Executive Director Sarah Belal had said.

Ali, behind whom the country rallied in 2016, had been diagnosed with terminal cancer while still in prison.

The father of five was detained for nearly 14 years for a wrongful conviction. He was arrested in November, 2004 after his flat mate was caught with 300 grams of heroin in Jakarta, a city that he wasn’t even in at the time. To review his sentence, the former president of Indonesia had commissioned an inquiry in 2010 which had found Ali to be innocent. Nonetheless, in July 2016, warrants for his execution by firing squad were issued.

“This means that the fact of Zulfiqar’s innocence was ignored by both Governments for 8 years,” the JPP regretted.

Ali’s attending physician had confirmed in January that he was suffering from stage-4 liver cancer and had three months to live. He was also suffering from chronic liver cirrhosis and Diabetes Mellitus.

Earlier this year, the 52-year-old had said that his wife was staying with him in the prison hospital to look after him.

“They can’t treat me here…it is a prison hospital…the doctors are here to monitor me but I have to go to private hospitals for treatment and it’s very expensive here. I just want to go home,” he had said.

“Zulfiqar’s death is evidence of the dangers of government inaction to protect its most vulnerable citizens abroad. Had a consular protection policy been in place, Zulfiqar could have spent his final moments with his family on home soil,” the JPP said.

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