KARACHI, Feb 29: Although they believe that undertrial prisoner Khalil Ahmed’s death was surrounded by what they refer to as “highly suspicious circumstances,” members of the 34-year-old’s family have accepted his fate with patient stoicism. His two minor sons, meanwhile, are barely aware of the implications of their father’s death.
Charged with killing a police constable, Ahmed died early Monday morning of what the authorities termed “cardiac and respiratory failure” after being rushed from the Central Prison to the Civil Hospital Karachi. While the body bore no visible marks of torture when handed over to the family, there was evidence of blood having oozed out of the deceased man’s nose and mouth.
The prisoner’s elder brother, Abdul Waheed, told Dawn that Ahmed had been in perfect health three days before his death. “My younger brother and cousins met him at the court where they found him perfectly healthy and normal,” he said.
A chronic asthma patient, Ahmed was incarcerated at the prison since 2002 and according to a jail official, visited the jail doctor regularly for treatment. “His condition worsened on Sunday night and he was taken to the hospital a little before midnight,” said the official. “However, he died at around 4am.”
While the medico-legal officer stated “cardiac and respiratory failure” as the cause of death, no autopsy was conducted upon the request of the victim’s elder brother. “The family elders were of the view that a post-mortem examination would have been pointless,” he told Dawn. “However, we are suspicious because blood was oozing from his ears and mouth. It was dripping even at the time he was laid in the grave.”
While it is true that Waheed filed an application with the magistrate submitting that the family did not want a post-mortem examination, the prison manual states clearly that the procedure is mandatory in case of the death of an undertrial prisoner.
Meanwhile, Waheed said that his brother may even have died of poisoning. “We are not levelling allegations at anyone,” he clarified, “but we are certain that our brother died under highly suspicious circumstances. We, the family, were informed of the death around 10am on Monday, while officials confirmed that he died at 4am. Why did they delay passing on the information about his death to his family for six hours?”
However, when asked about the possibility of exhuming the body for a post-mortem examination that could ascertain the actual cause of death, Waheed said that the family would never consent to the step. “That would be tantamount to the body’s desecration.”
Waheed told Dawn that his brother had been due to be released on bail shortly, and efforts had been under way to arrange sureties for his release. “His lawyers told us that he would be released on bail within a week,” he said. “I went to the Central Prison on Thursday to visit Khalil’s jailmates in an effort to find out what actually happened to him, but I could not meet any of his fellow inmates.”
Charged with the murder of a constable, Ahmed was also booked in two drugs-related cases registered with the Pak Colony police station. The first case against him was registered in 1997 for the possession of drugs, and he was remanded into judicial custody on August 5, 2002.