During the recent Eid-ul Fitr celebrations, the president of Pakistan announced his decision to grant remissions to prisoners across the country, under Article 45 of the Constitution. In light of this decision, 17 prisoners were released; however, there remain many more that are waiting to be set free. One such example is that of Muhammad Iqbal alias ‘Bali’, who has been in jail for 18 years without any respite in sight. Bali was a juvenile when he committed the offense that landed him in prison, back in 1999. Despite this, he was sentenced to death by the Special Court under the Anti Terrorism Act of 1997, and his subsequent appeals to the High Court, as well as the Supreme Court, were also turned down.While the co-accused persons in his case were discharged from jail after completing their sentences, Iqbal has not been offered the same respite, and he was not even allowed to go to his parent’s funerals either, both of them having died without seeing their son receive the justice he deserved.Iqbal was set to be sent to the gallows last year, after the dismissal of his first mercy petition by the president of Pakistan. His second mercy petition was filed on humanitarian grounds by a third party, and it was tentatively acknowledged by the office of the President’s Secretariat (Public) in Islamabad, which forwarded it to the Office of Ministry of Interior for further follow up. This acknowledgment of his second mercy petition resulted in a temporary stay in his execution, subject to the result of his clemency plea, which is currently pending adjudication in the office of the President. Bali was a juvenile when he committed the offense that landed him in prison, back in 1999. Despite this, he was sentenced to death by the Special Court under the Anti Terrorism Act of 1997.It is disturbing to note that the case of ‘Bali’ is unfortunately not the only such case that needs to be highlighted. There are countless other prisoners in similar situations, including Abdul Basit, a wheelchair bound prisoner currently housed in Faisalabad Central jail. It is important for the president of Pakistan to understand that he cannot keep procrastinating over decisions of such importance, especially when a person’s life is on the line.Even though Article 45 of the Constitution does not specify a specific time period in which such decisions are to be made, this does not allow the state to take all the time in the world to come to a final decision. In fact, the Indian Supreme Court holds that an inordinate delay in deciding a clemency plea is not only inhumane, but is also reasonable grounds for the condemned prisoners to be discharged from jail. Considering the curious case of ‘Bali’, another point to be considered is that following the introduction of the Juvenile Justice System Ordinance (JJSO) in 2000, the then President of Pakistan issued notification No F.8/41/2001-Ptns, granting a remission in death sentences to those whose sentence had been confirmed prior to the enactment of the JJSO.Thus, it is fair to say that Muhammad Iqbal’s death sentence and execution are in violation of Pakistan’s international obligations under the CRC and the ICCPR, as well as domestic law.I implore the president of Pakistan to decide the pending mercy petitions as quickly as possible, and provide these helpless victims of the system, the respite they so desperately need. The life of a condemned prisoner is one rife with pain and misery, and it is high time that unfortunate prisoners like ‘Bali’ receive the attention and consideration they deserve from the people in power as well.The writer is an advocate based in Lahore, and he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.orgPublished in Daily Times, June 21st 2018.