Blocking the execution of a paranoid schizophrenic murder convict, Pakistan's Supreme Court has wriggled out of its earlier decision that had drawn condemnation from human right activists and lawyers.
However, the block is conditional and pending upon review of its earlier ruling that stated that convict's condition was not a permanent mental disorder and therefore not legally relevant.
Imdad Ali (50), who was due to be executed on Wednesday, was diagnosed as suffering from paranoid schizophrenia in 2012. Ali was convicted for the 2001 murder of a cleric.
The court's October 21 ruling had said that schizophrenia did not fall within Pakistan's legal definition of mental disorders. It had surprisingly cited the judgment of Supreme Court of India in a 1976 case.
In the case, a petition filed by the convict's mother on behalf of the accused in Delhi High Court had asked the court to block her son's execution as he was of unsound mind and suffering from schizophrenia. But the Delhi High Court and Supreme Court dismissed the plea and argued that the convict did not suffer from legal insanity during his trial or at the time the offence was committed.
Ali's lawyers challenged the verdict by arguing that it relied on an outdated Supreme Court of India precedent that has since been overturned. It also submitted that the verdict runs counter to established medical jurisprudence and violates Pakistan's international human rights obligations such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, a United Nations treaty to which Pakistan is a signatory.
"We welcome the decision ... which will be integral in showing Pakistan's commitment to its international human rights obligations," Zainab Malik, head of advocacy at Justice Project Pakistan, a legal aid group representing Ali, was quoted saying by Reuters.
The court has now scheduled a hearing for the second week of November.
Pakistan reinstated capital punishment in 2014 after Pakistani Taliban gunmen massacred more than 150 people, most of them children, at a school. Since then, 425 people have been hanged.