Imdad Ali, Mentally Ill Convict: An Open Letter to the President of Pakistan

To President Mamnoon Hussain:

Dear Sir,

I had written two weeks ago about Imdad Ali, the man with paranoid schizophrenia sentenced to death by the Pakistani courts for murder. Lawyers from Pakistan’s Justice Project had been appealing the sentence and the case went all the way to the Supreme Court.

But yesterday the Supreme Court gave an astonishing ruling over Imdad Ali’s case: they ruled that schizophrenia is not a mental illness (it is); that it is reversible (it is not); and that it is caused by stress (oh my god, no). The ruling on which they based their judgment is an outdated Indian case from the 1980s. Medical science has made great strides since then in understanding the condition of schizophrenia, and we now know that it is classified as one of the most severe mental illnesses in existence.

Therefore they deemed that Imdad Ali was fit to undergo punishment. He may be executed now in as little as five days.

The Pakistan Supreme Court has made a huge mistake. Their ruling goes against every medical convention. Schizophrenia is a severe mental illness and there is no cure. It is an organic brain disease, meaning that stress has nothing to do with its origin or the course of its disease. It can be treated and managed but never, ever cured.

Imdad Ali’s form of schizophrenia is extreme. Doctors who have examined him have diagnosed him with paranoid schizophrenia in its active stage.

I urge the President of Pakistan to intervene in Imdad Ali’s case and grant him mercy. To execute a severely mentally ill man would be a travesty of justice. But to allow the judgment of the Supreme Court, based on no medical science known to humanity, would be a disaster.


Bina Shah

Please read and share as widely as you can. If you want to send this to the President’s secretary, the email is

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