An interactive fictional story surrounding the mystery of a murder, a subsequent arrest, a confession and a death sentence.
Who kills who? Read on to find out!

Inspired by true events.


JUNE 28, 2021
I plead guilty.
I confess to murdering Farhan Sheikh s/o Abdullah Sheikh, on June 17, 2021 at 1:20am at his house, Kothi number 32, Chak No. 562, Mohalla Number 6, Tehsil Kamalia.  
Who just confessed? Click here to read the full confession

“My name is Aftab.

Between the night of June 16 and 17, I picked up a pistol I had bought illegally from an arms smuggler and quietly snuck out of my house to kill Farhan. He had called me to his house earlier in the day, June 16, at 11:30am to fix his car. After checking his car, I went to an auto-repair shop nearby to buy the parts which needed to be replaced. When I got back, Farhan wasn’t home. I quietly fixed his car and waited for him to return. He came home an hour later and when I asked him to reimburse me for my labour and the car parts, he refused. This led to a heated argument during which, in my anger, I hurled abuses and threatened to hurt him. I then stormed away. 

At 1:00am the same day, while my wife Shagufta was sound asleep, I grabbed my pistol and snuck out of the house. I entered Farhan’s house by climbing over his metal gate. I then started rummaging through the cupboards when someone switched on the lights. Suddenly, there was a commotion and I found myself panicking. I could see Farhan coming at me with a bat. I hurriedly took out the pistol and fired, point blank. He fell to the ground, lifeless. The sound of the gunshot woke up his wife and children who also rushed to the room to find out what was happening. That is when I bolted out of the house and back into mine, quickly sneaking back into bed next to my wife.  

It is correct that I killed Farhan.”

Aftab has just confessed to a murder. Read his storyGo to the crime scene

“I remember when I was five years old, my father nailed two cardboard wheels to a box and made me a bicycle. It was the best day of my life. No child in my mohalla owned a bicycle so I was proud and happy. I took my custom bike outside in the blistering heat, wore my bright blue-tinted shades, and started showing off my ‘bike’ to friends in the neighbourhood.

Ahmed was a known bully; he was older, bulkier, and taller than the rest of us. When he saw my bike, he snickered and forced all the other children to laugh at me. Humiliated, I left the bike and rushed back home with tears streaming down my face. My father, you see, was a kind man. He consoled me and told me to get my bike when all the other kids have gone back home. Later that evening, I went to take my bike back, only to find that it had been ripped apart and trashed by the kids. This time, I started screaming, and threw a tantrum. My father came, picked me up in his arms, and said something that changed my life forever: “beta, maaf kardo.” [son, forgive them].

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“See, I was born into a poor family and we could barely make ends meet. But I never saw my father lose hope or his integrity. He always stood by what was right. ‘Sufaid-posh’ [of noble character] is what they call people like him. But like all good men, he left the world too soon. He passed away when I was 11 years old. My mother took up sewing to make ends meet and to feed me and my four younger siblings.

I was the eldest son so I had to shoulder their responsibility. I started working as an errand boy at a car repair shop at age 12. Eventually, I became an auto mechanic myself. I was married to Shagufta at 25, and we now have two beautiful daughters — Afshan, 6, and Shazia, 4. I moved into my own house with my wife and children a little while ago. It’s small and shanty, but it’s home. I am a simple, hardworking man. Every morning I go straight to the car repair shop, work hard for my wages, and return at the end of the day, sometimes with fruits or colourful, plastic toys for my daughters. Life is hard but my daughters make it worth living. I go home and play with them. Sometimes, they laugh when I do little tricks. It's the best part of my day. I do not have many friends, I keep to myself. My family - my wife and my daughters - are my world. And now we have another baby on the way.”

Go to Aftab's house and read what his wife has to say

Aftab’s wife, Shagufta, was married too young. She never had an education or a career. Her whole life revolves around her husband and her family.

Read her story

“I got married to Aftab right after I turned 20. Aftab seemed like a cold man to me. He was young but his eyes seemed older. Nine months after our wedding, our beautiful little baby daughter Afshan came into this world. At first, I was scared that Aftab might get angry at the birth of a daughter and not a son, but when Aftab met Afshan for the first time, his eyes lit up in a way that I had never seen before. After that, Aftab’s life revolved around Afshan and later our second daughter Shazia. I saw the kind man that he really was. Aftab did everything in his power to keep his little girls safe. He was overprotective and did not even let me use a knife to cut vegetables in their presence. He started laughing more. And despite our financial constraints, he seemed happier in life.

On June 17 at 6pm, I was in the kitchen making tea when I heard loud banging on our front door. “Police! Darwaza kholo!” [Police! Open the door!] someone screamed. Even though I had no clue why they were there, the thought of the police sent shudders down my spine. I quickly pulled my dupatta over my head and opened the door. The police officials barged in, demanding to know where Aftab was. I told them he was inside, playing with our daughters. They pushed past me, and in the span of a few minutes, a large policeman was pulling my husband by the hair and dragging him towards the door. The police were screaming obscenities and telling him they knew what he had done. I started crying; my daughters were also crying, hiding behind me. Aftab looked visibly afraid, but he kept reassuring us that everything was going to be okay. It only took a few minutes. We saw Aftab being brutally assaulted with batons. He was pleading his innocence, but the policemen were not listening. They continued to assault him in front of my terrified daughters. Finally, they took him away in a large police van, kicking and pushing him all the way. I ran out to stop them but they sped away. A small crowd had gathered outside our house. I was embarrassed, but most of all, I was scared. 

I have hardly slept since the day they took him, and then today, I heard the news of his confession. They are saying he killed our neighbour Farhan for money. Aftab wouldn’t do something like this. He knew Farhan, he was friends with him. We have two beautiful daughters and another child on the way. I know he has been worried about how we will live, but worried enough to risk everything? I don’t know what to think anymore. I cannot understand why he would confess. My heart isn’t willing to accept it, it can’t possibly be true. But … people surprise you in the worst ways sometimes. I don’t know what to think or do. I have never felt so afraid and alone in my entire life.”

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See a glimpse of what happened on the day of the arrestOther than assaulting Aftab, how else did the police abuse their power that night?
Aftab lives in a residential area and is married with children. Legally, the police are required to have female police officers present if they are planning to raid a location where women and children may be. However, no female police officers were present at the time of the arrest. 

To better understand your legal rights under Pakistani law, please visit Vakeel Online an online community making law accessible to everyday citizens.

From the arrest to the day of the confession, many things had remained mired in secrecy. Today, on June 28, a video has emerged showing Aftab being tortured by the police during his arrest.

Read the story of the bystander who saw Aftab’s arrest and made the video

“It was June 17. I had come back from my tuition centre in the evening and had just stepped out of my house to get credit for my phone. On the way to the store, I heard some commotion — muffled screams of a man and a crowd gathering. I first thought there might have been some accident and walked up to the crowd to find out what was going on. There I saw the police dragging a man out of his house, beating him, and dragging him towards their van. Someone told me it was Aftab. I didn’t know much about him, he lived a couple of streets away so we had never interacted. 

I had no idea what he had done and why the police were taking him. I asked another bystander and he told me that they were arresting Aftab for Farhan’s murder. Farhan was a good humoured fellow. I knew him, and had gone to his house a few times to give ‘halwa’ [sweets] on special occasions. I was furious to find out that Aftab had killed Farhan. I took out my phone and videotaped the entire episode. I remember turning around to a bystander and saying, “buhat acha keya police ne! Maro iss salay ko!” [The police did great work! Beat the bastard up!] and went home.

I had told all my friends about Farhan’s murder so I instantly shared the news of Aftab’s arrest and the video with them. Everyone was relieved that the culprit was arrested. A friend replied saying “isko tou chowk pe phansi deni chahiye” [This man should be publicly hanged].

Today, a friend has shared the video on Twitter and it has gone viral. #AftabWasTortured is trending on top. So many activists are saying that Aftab has been wronged. But I also just saw in the news today that Aftab has confessed. Could there be a conspiracy? You never know these activist types. Maybe they are trying to save a criminal. Why else would they say that the police torture was wrong? This is the only way for the police to make him confess, otherwise it’s so easy for criminals to get away with murder.

Someone even tweeted saying the bystanders or Aftab’s family should lodge a complaint against the torture. A complaint against the police? Who are they kidding?”

Click here to go into the house of the policeman who arrested Aftab

Salahuddin was a police officer who was investigating Farhan’s murder. This was his first investigation despite having served in the police for 12 years.

Read his story

“I remember that day very well. My son had fallen terribly ill the night before. I didn’t have enough money on hand to take him to a decent private hospital. I felt powerless. But the next day, when I was told that we had found the culprit for a murder and that I was to be a part of the investigation, I saw a ray of hope. This was my first investigation as a police officer, after twelve years of service. If I could bring this man to justice, this case could help me prove myself.

After arresting Aftab, a few of my colleagues took him to a safe house where they tortured him for days to extract a confession. I saw what they did to him and I will never be able to forget it. They hung him from a rod, the ends of which were tied to chairs. The rod passed through his arms and behind the back of his legs, leaving him hanging upside down. Yet the torture did not stop there. My seniors used wooden sticks to beat the soles of his feet until they were completely bloodied. All the while, beads of sweat rolled down his back and he winced in pain, letting out a scream with each whip. In vain attempts to shield his feet from the blows, he tried covering them with his hands, which caused them to bleed too. They gave him short respites from the beating. In the thaana [police-station] they teach us to do this deliberately, as the short breaks amplify the pain when the beating is resumed. In these breaks, they hurled abuses at him, ordering him to confess to the murder, to “come clean”. He looked confused but most of all incredibly tired and beat down. Unable to bear the excruciating pain, Aftab caved and told them that he had done it all, “jo bhi kaha hay” [whatever they said]. He was then untied and made to walk around the room in agony given how badly the soles of his feet were injured. My seniors tied him a second time and repeated their demands, after which they made him walk around the room again. The entirety of this took a few days. During this time he was allowed no sleep, and given hardly any food and water. He pissed himself multiple times, and they laughed at him. 

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“They said it was necessary, they had to do it, “warna yeh haramzada kabhi nahi bolay ga” [or this bastard will never confess]. I understood, but throughout, I had a lump in my throat and a terrible, uneasy feeling. I couldn’t sleep for days during that time. I get it though, why they did what they did. My seniors, I mean. A part of our job is humiliating the criminal, beating down his pride to the point where he confesses to anything.

If we don’t make arrests and get confessions, we don’t get promoted. I need more money to provide for my family, to make sure that if they fall sick I can take care of them, their future. We policemen are assaulted as well, beaten by elite influential families when they are caught breaking the law. They say things like “tum jaante ho mein kaun hoon?” [do you know who I am?] and humiliate us. They spit in our faces and threaten our livelihoods. No one has ever been punished for it. I was only trying to protect my job, my family. My seniors were doing the same. If there was a better way, I would do it. But we do what we can with the resources we have.”

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The victim's wife, Maryam, was the key eyewitness in the murder case.
She had named Aftab as the primary suspect.
What did she really see that night?

Read her account

“Everything happened so fast that night. In the blink of an eye, I lost my husband and my children lost their father. I wish Farhan had never confronted the thief and that man had taken what he wanted and left. My family would still be whole. I wish I could tell you my memory was clear, but it's as muddied as my conscience. When the police came to me and said someone had confessed to them, I believed them. They told me that they knew it was him, that he had confessed. 

When they showed me his picture, I instantly recognised him. That man had come to our house earlier! It was Aftab, one of our neighbours. I had heard him arguing with my husband. I asked Farhan about it later and he said Aftab was just angry about a non-issue, that he’d settle everything with him later in the month. 

They said my only chance for justice was to tell the court that it was him, otherwise the case could go on for years. Cases take years to be resolved in this country. I didn’t have the money or the courage to get into a legal battle. They told me he was the murderer and I believed them, because what else could I do? Even though there was a nagging feeling in the pit of my stomach when I looked at him. I didn’t see the man’s face that night. Maybe it was Aftab or maybe it wasn’t. Honestly, I don’t know. I just want justice for my husband. But he had confessed, right? He was guilty, so he confessed. So I buried the feeling and said it was him. What else could I have done?”

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If the main eyewitness never really saw Aftab, why did he confess to the crime?

Find out here

“Since my arrest, I have cried myself to sleep every night. You think you are all cried out, but then every morning the tears just start flowing again. I did not kill Farhan. God knows I didn’t. They tortured me until I confessed. I still remember that week, the beatings, the humiliation. They starved me, beat me until I bled, made me piss myself, and then repeated the cycle. They said unimaginable things about my wife and daughters. By the end I did not feel human. I still have injuries from where they lashed me on my back. I just wanted it to be over, so I said I had done it. I still wish I had not. But they would never have stopped. During the time they tormented me, they gave me a blank piece of paper and made me put my thumbprint on it. Now they are saying that piece of paper is my confession statement.

For 11 days, I was kept in police custody and not produced before any magistrate or judge. It is painful to even recount the details of what I was put through during that time. After a few days, I began to lose a grip on reality. I started hallucinating. I even started believing that I had really killed Farhan. Even though, despite our earlier argument, I liked him. He would often send free eggs from his poultry business. But they had broken me, cracked me like one of Farhan’s eggs. I told them everything. Everything that was not true. I told them lies so they wouldn’t beat me anymore. I just wanted the torture to end.  

All I want is another chance at my life, at being a husband and a father. Just one chance. Now, they tell me the government will sentence me to death. That I will be hanged until I die, for a crime I did not commit. They will keep me alive until the day they decide to kill me. 


Go the torture cell where Aftab was torturedPlay your part and help us #CriminalizeTortureExplore the issue further from various perspectives

So, who is the murderer then?

We do not know who killed Farhan, but we do know it wasn’t Aftab. But now, Aftab, an innocent man, is on death row because the state failed him, the police failed him, his neighbours failed him. Who will be responsible for taking his life? Salahuddin and his colleagues? The courts? The bystander who thought he should be publicly hanged?

Torture corrupts the justice system. It results in forced confessions and wrongful convictions. Till torture is criminalized, justice cannot prevail and we might never have the answer to our question. Torture is criminal, make it a crime.

Hear the perspectives of a torture victim, a victim's family member, a psychologist, a police officer and an activist on the impact of torture on various people of the society and on the criminal justice system.


June 26th is the International Day In Support of Victims of Torture.Torture is an unacceptable part of any civilised society. However, incidents of torture in police custody are regularly reported. Despite its obligations under the Convention Against Torture (CAT), Pakistan has yet to enact a law specifically criminalising it.

Get involved, sign the petition and support the campaign to #CriminalizeTorture now!



To spread awareness about this cause and support our project campaign, use #CriminalizeTorture and #WhoIsTheMurderer on social media.

Torture is criminal. Make it a crime. #CriminalizeTorture @JusticeProject_


Produced by:
Justice Project Pakistan
Script: Ema Anis, Ali Haider Habib, Maria S Kazmi
Illustrations: Reem Khurshid
Web development: Faizan Ahmed, Ema Anis
Logistics and Support: Muhammad Shoaib, Maria S Kazmi
Special Thanks: Tahira Abdullah, AMNA BAIG, Usama Khawar, ZEHRA KAMAL, Ramla Baig, Muhammad Iqbal, Laiba Zainab, Hassan Shabber, Iman Iftikhar, ZORAIN CHOUDHaRY