His frail mother and other relatives were seen crying inconsolably outside the Central Jail when they received Masih’s human remains, two hours after the execution took place.
It came as elsewhere in Punjab, Christian families still mourned loved ones who died Tuesday, March 11, in twin suicide attacks in Lahore, the provincial capital.
Till the last moment his defense team, church groups and human rights organizations urged Pakistan’s President Pervez Musharraf and other authorities to grant Masih clemency, or at least a postponement of the death sentence till after Easter.
Masih’s lawyer, Prince Rehan Iftikhar, told BosNewsLife that had personally "filed a mercy appeal to the president and other high-ups via an especially arranged telephone call." He said that during court proceedings, "Zahid Masih was not given any chance to defend himself…" He
expressed his outrage about the death sentence. "Pakistan’s government has treated Zahid Masih like a dog. No one heard our voice for mercy."
Masih, a former sanitary worker in the Pakistan Army, was sentenced to death by a military court in March 2006 on charges of murdering a 9-year-old Muslim boy, identified as Muhammad Adnan. The incident allegedly happened while he was serving in the military in Peshawar, the capital of North West Frontier Province, known as a hotbed of Islamic extremism.
Masih has denied the charges, saying previous statements of admission were made under duress while in custody, including some 28 days of torture.
Wednesday’s execution was likely to underscore concerns among rights groups about Pakistan’s judiciary and prison system. Christian politicians have made clear they want the new government to improve both human and legal rights for religious minorities in this predominantly Muslim nation.
The parties of slain opposition leader Benazir Bhutto and of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif beat President Musharraf’s allies in elections in February and are set to form a coalition government when parliament meets next week. (To read more from Jawad Mazhar and support his ministry, click: http://www.raysofdevelopment.org)