Zulfiqar Ali, a terminally ill Pakistani on death row in Indonesia who was given hope that he would be sent back home, passed away on Thursday, hours after being transferred to an Intensive Care Unit, Justice Project Pakistan (JPP) said.
"It is with the heaviest heart that we announce the passing away of Zulfiqar Ali. A Pakistani citizen who has been declared innocent for 8 years, and been innocent since the moment he was arrested. He is mourned by his family and lawyers who fought for his life until the very end," JPP said on Twitter.
Earlier in the day, the organisation had issued an appeal to bring Ali back to Pakistan as he had "just hours to live". It had also recalled that while visiting Pakistan, Indonesian President Joko Widodo had "promised Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi that he would grant Zulfiqar Ali clemency on humanitarian grounds."
President Widodo had said during a meeting with President Mamnoon Hussain that although Ali's release was a legal matter, he would "look into the matter on humanitarian grounds".
"The Government of Pakistan must urge President Widodo to pardon Zulfiqar in light of his terminal illness at the earliest, that has taken a turn for the worse, and the suffering he has already undergone as a result of his wrongful imprisonment," the JPP had said in its earlier press release today.
“We cannot save his life but we can remove his wrongful conviction so he can die a free man. A promise is a promise,” JPP Executive Director Sarah Belal had said.
Ali, behind whom the country rallied in 2016, is on death row in Indonesia and has been diagnosed with stage-4 terminal cancer.
The father of five was detained for nearly 14 years for a wrongful conviction. He was arrested in November, 2004 after his flat mate was caught with 300 grams of heroine in Jakarta, a city that he wasn’t even in at the time.
Ali's attending physician confirmed that he was suffering from stage-4 liver cancer and had been given three months to live. He was also suffering from chronic liver cirrhosis and Diabetes Mellitus.
Earlier this year, while talking to Dawn over the phone, the 52-year-old said that his wife was staying with him in the prison hospital to look after him. “They can’t treat me here...it is a prison hospital...the doctors are here to monitor me but I have to go to private hospitals for treatment and it’s very expensive here. I just want to go home,” he had said.
The cost of treatment in Indonesia, where prisoners are expected to pay themselves, was too high for Ali to bear. His medical bills had cost him over $37,000, part of which was paid by Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.