Muhammad Iqbal was just 17 years old when he was convicted of a fatal shooting in Mandi Bahauddin in 1999. The Special Court, Gujranwala determined his age to be 17 following a court-mandated ossification test, confirming that he was a juvenile. Yet, he was sentenced to death under the problematic Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA).


He has spent well over half his life in prison and his death sentence is in gross violation of the Juvenile Justice System Ordinance and Presidential Notification. The complainants in the case, i.e. the victim’s family, have forgiven him and do not want him hanged. But Iqbal’s sentence remains non-compoundable because of the nature of the ATA.



Muhammad Iqbal, also known as Bali, comes from a poor family hailing from a village near Mandi Bahauddin. Friends and neighbours describe him as mild-mannered, with deep-rooted respect for authority.




LATEST DEVELOPMENT: 2nd Nov, 2018: Letter sent to Punjab Chief Minister by Justice Project Pakistan (JPP) requesting remission for Iqbal under the Presidential Notification No. F.8/41/2001-Ptns

Iqbal was only 17 years old when he was sentenced to death in 1999 for fatally shooting a man. He has spent more than half his life on death row. The FIR states that Iqbal and four others surrounded a wagon near Mandi Bahauddin. Upon being surrounded, the driver of the vehicle reversed the car in an attempt to escape. As a reaction, shots were fired that smashed the windscreen, and injured the driver and three passengers. They were moved to a hospital, where one of the four injured parties succumbed to their injuries.


Iqbal was arrested two months after the incident and a Special Court judge in Gujranwala sentenced him to death. Suspecting that he was a juvenile, the prosecution moved an application before the trial court to determine Iqbal’s age through an ossification test. It was subsequently determined that his age was 17 years at the time of the alleged offence. The trial court also held in its judgment that Iqbal was a minor at the time of the occurrence.


In fact, ossification tests were conducted on all five of the accused which determined three to be juveniles. All but Iqbal were given life sentences, including the ones found not to be juveniles. Iqbal remains the only accused on death row – despite his juvenility being recognized. The basis for his sentence is dubious eyewitness testimonies, made even more problematic by the fact that the offence took place at 12:30am, in a street with no lights.



In Pakistan, the accuser and accused can reach a compromise of forgiveness or financial settlement and a pardon may be issued.


In 2004, the complainants in Iqbal’s case – i.e. the victim’s family – withdrew their petition and forgave Iqbal. The son of the victim, Waheed Ahmad, said that they believe Iqbal has already spent several years in imprisonment and that alone is punishment enough. They have categorically stated that they do not want Iqbal hanged.


However, due to the non-compoundable nature of the problematic Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA), under which Iqbal was convicted, all his appeals have been rejected and he remains on death row.




Section 12 of the Juvenile Justice System Ordinance (JJSO) – now repealed and replaced by Juvenile Justice System Act (JJSA) – prohibits the sentencing to death of any person who was under 18 at the time of his/her alleged offence. The JJSO came into force in 2000 – almost two years after the issuance of Iqbal’s death sentence by the trial court.



In 2001, the President of Pakistan issued Notification No. F.8/41/2001-Ptns, in exercise of his powers under Article 45 of the Constitution of Pakistan, 1973, granting remission to those juvenile offenders whose death sentences had been confirmed prior to the enactment of the JJSO on the basis of an inquiry into their juvenility. In fact, Iqbal was listed as one of the prisoners that would benefit from this notification as he fulfilled the criteria for retrospective force.



The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), ratified by Pakistan in November 1990, dictates under Article 37 (a) that “neither capital punishment nor life imprisonment without possibility of release shall be imposed for offences committed by persons below 18 years of age.”



Pakistan is also a party to the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), wherein Article 6, Paragraph 5 of the ICCPR provides explicitly: “Sentence of death shall not be imposed for crimes committed by persons below eighteen years of age.”


Both the JJSO and the Presidential Notification were enacted in light of these international obligations. Therefore, Iqbal’s death sentence and execution are in violation of Pakistan’s international obligations under the CRC and the ICCPR.


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Ask Prime Minister Mr. Imran Khan to #BringItBack

Prime Minister Mr. Imran Khan, we the undersigned call on you to show mercy to the mentally ill, the physically disabled and juvenile offenders who are currently on death row. We strongly urge you to undertake action to reform our criminal justice system that continues to punish only the most vulnerable members of our society. We demand that until this is done, the Government of Pakistan reinstates the moratorium on the death penalty.


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