Awaiting Execution For 29 Years, Kanizan Bibi Was Diagnosed With Schizophrenia In 2000
A Pakistani woman Kanizan Bibi remains on death row for 29 years now, despite having been diagnosed with schizophrenia in the year 2000. She is just one among the more than 600 Pakistanis who remain incarcerated in Pakistan despite being diagnosed with mental illness. With courts having closed down before another psychiatric evaluation could be presented to them, Kanizan Bibi has not spoken in over a decade and hears voices. She is often incapable of eating or dressing by herself, and cannot recognize her family members.
She was accused of having murdered her employer Khan Mohammad’s wife and five children. The employer himself was given the death penalty in 2003. He maintained to the end that they neither killed anyone nor had an affair, and that his family had been murdered as part of a feud over land with his relatives.
Before dying in 2016, the father of Kanizan Bibi requested the President of Pakistan to commute the death sentence of his daughter to life imprisonment. Describing her torture at the hands of police, he wrote:
“They hung her from a fan with ropes thicker than her tiny wrists, beating her small frame with all their might. They let mice loose in her pants, which they tied from the ankles so that they could not escape. Kanizan had been terrified of mice her whole life.”
The Cornell Centre on the Death Penalty Worldwide and the Justice Project Pakistan (JPP) have been involved in an effort to have Kanizan Bibi released. However, with courts shutting down in the Coronavirus lockdown, she remains in the overcrowded prison system. There are fears that Pakistan’s prison system could become a breeding ground for the Coronavirus pandemic. The Supreme Court has permitted only those mentally ill and disabled prisoners to be released during the Coronavirus pandemic whose sentences were less than three years.