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October 11, 2018

‘No Time To Sleep’ depicts last day of death penalty inmate


October 11, 2018

Islamabad : At 11:59 p.m. Wednesday, actor Sarmad Khoosat completed a 24 hour live performance as Prisoner Z, in solidarity with death row prisoners all over the globe for this year’s World Day against the Death Penalty.

‘No Time to Sleep,’ a collaboration between Justice Project Pakistan, Highlight Arts and Olomopolo Media, was a ground-breaking performance that followed Prisoner Z’s last day before his imminent execution. Set inside a replica of an actual death cell, Prisoner Z’s journey was streamed online for the entire duration of World Day against the Death Penalty. #NoTimeToSleep also trended for hours on Twitter.

Ambassador of the European Union Jean-François Cautain hosted a screening of ‘No Time to Sleep’ at his residence in Islamabad. While addressing the audience Ambassador Cautain said, “All around the world the European Union always states its strong opposition to capital punishment in all circumstances and for all cases. We strongly believe that death penalty constitutes cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and is contrary to the right to life. The death penalty has no established deterrent effect and it makes judicial errors irreversible,” says a press release.

‘No Time to Sleep’ is based on the life and case history of Zulfiqar Ali, JPP’s client, who spent seventeen years on death row. In that time, his execution was scheduled and stayed more than 20 times. During his incarceration, Zulfiqar educated hundreds of prisoners and securing 22 degrees and diplomas himself. A social media prologue ran rolling coverage of the execution warrant and the many wheels that were set in motion to prepare Prisoner Z for his imminent death. Petitions were filed in court, the media alerted, the family notified to visit him for the last time.

When the live stream began Z sat in his cell in solitary confinement, occasionally being silent, occasionally conversing with the guard who was watching him. But mostly, he waited in sheer anguish, as he counts down to a fate he cannot escape. This piece was primarily about the tyranny of time that is both long and short - running slow and running out - while the ropes are tested. Centred around the five stages of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance), ‘No Time to Sleep’ accurately portrayed what happens to prisoners prior to execution, based on accounts of guards, former prisoners and their families.

“No Time to Sleep’ is the first event of its kind in Pakistan, if not the world,” said JPP’s spokesperson, Rimmel Mohydin. “Tuning in to watch Sarmad was an act of solidarity with the 21,191 prisoners who, like Prisoner Z, have spent years awaiting death. We hope that this performance will have a sobering effect on those who believe the death penalty to be an instrument of justice, when really it is a death trap for those who are too poor to escape it.”

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