LAHORE: A theatre play titled Intezaar (The wait), depicting the miseries, issues and problems of prisoners and their family members, was performed at the Forman Christian College (FCC) on Thursday. Ajoka Theatre in collaboration with the Justice Project Pakistan (JPP) and Highlight Arts, London, staged the play based on true stories from Pakistani prisons. The play was written by Shahid Nadeem and directed by Dina Mousawi, while Ryan Van Winkle produced it. Ajoka Theatre Director Madeeha Gouhar, officials of the JPP and a large number of students were present on the occasion. The play raised serious question on the judicial system and weak prosecution system, which is causing execution of hundreds of innocent people since the creation of Pakistan. The play presented stories of six prisoners – some who were forced to confess to the crimes. The characters of Intezaar were death-row inmates of a Pakistani prison. The play showed their miserable existence as well as their resilience and courage to make their meaningless lives somewhat meaningful. There was a prisoner who could paint, another who could compose and sing and a third one who spent all his times studying and teaching others. But there were other inmates who were there for violating Pakistani and international laws: the juveniles, the physically handicapped and mentally ill. There were other characters whose lives were connected to those of the convicts, like family members, who were asked to collect the bodies of their relatives. A character that gave hope in this depressing situation was a lawyer who was devoted to work to seek relief and justice for the unfortunate victims of social and institutional injustice. The stories of Intezaar were based on true stories, but the names of convicts and their relatives were changed for reasons of privacy and legal factors. One of the stories was about a prisoner on death row who did his master’s degree in more than 10 different subjects and taught over 400 other prisoners, who later appeared in annual matriculations, intermediate, graduation and master’s degree examinations. He was executed despite his good academic record, which he had maintained during his prison life. Another case was of a young man who had been forced to confess to murdering his friend when he was 16 years old. Despite several mercy appeals in courts, his execution was delayed but later he was executed. Talking to Daily Times about the theme of the play and reasons behind it, writer Shahid Nadeem said that ‘The wait’, in the context of the Pakistani judicial and prison systems, highlighted the wait for loved ones to come home, the wait for the judicial system to give justice to the falsely accused, the wait for a verdict on the right to life of a human being, and the wait for black warrants – the fixation of the date of hanging. He said that on average a death-row convict had to wait for 10 years or more in prison before the state could take his life. Shahid went on to say that death penalty was regarded as an inhuman and degrading punishment in most countries “but it becomes even more unjust and cruel in countries where the police and judicial system is corrupt and flawed”. “Very little is known about the life of inmates in Pakistani prisons, even less about those on death row,” he said, adding that one appalling aspect was the never-ending uncertainty and wait. To a question regarding the message Ajoka wanted to convey through this play, Shahid said that the government must consider that executions were not a solution to murders or acts of terrorism. He said it was just like the state wanted to take revenge from the person who committed a crime by performing the same deed that the murderer had done. “Besides, we should change the mindset of the people rather than doing the same thing that terrorists are doing,” he said.