Road to death row prison. Pakistan.

Ilyas Khokar was pardoned without financial compensation. His father spent one year visiting the family's victim every day to get his pardon.

Sylvia Henry Pershaad. Her son is in death row . She can't afford to pay blood money.

Gegowana Sherkargarh. Pakistan

Ilyas Khokar's father.

Streets of Gegowana Sherkargarh, Pakistan.

Rasheed Ahmed Khan. He was asked to pay $53,000 for his son's release from death row.

Manchanabad District, Bhawal Nagar.

Rasheed and Khursheed Ahmed Khan.

Grace Bibi & Nathaniel in their home in Youhanabad, Lahore. Grace pardoned his son's murderer for $644,24.

Payyari with her granddaughter, who at the age of 9 was requested to marry the son of the man his father killed in exchange for his release from death row.

Muhalah Railway quarter in Lahore.

The Panchaate System (bench of elders) resolves conflicts privately, excluding the police and the government's intervention. Here, Muhammad Sadiq who is part of it.

Director of the Human Rights Commission Of Pakistan in his office in Lahore.

Streets around Sabir’s house in Muhalah Railway quarter, Lahore.

Photograph of Boota Masih, who is currently on death row. His family was requested to raise $9450 for his pardon.

Private negotiator between victim's and offender's families.

Gardens in Lahore.

Ishtiaq Rasool with his mother and son. They are requesting $9450 as blood money.

Sunrise in Chichawatni Sahiwal, near the site of the murder of Istiaq Rasool's father.

Altaf Hussain’s wife, daughter and mother in their house in Chichawatni. They are asked to raise $58,000 in blood money.

Manchanabad, Bhawal Nagar district.

Sabir & Mushtaq with a photo of their brother Tariq, who murdered Younas Masih. His family paid $ 1932.72 on blood money.

Badshahi Mosque from Muhalah Railway quarter in Lahore.

Young boy in Yahounabad district, Lahore.

Gulgasht colony, Samanabad, Lahore.


Pakistan has one of the largest populations in the world facing execution, with more than 8,000 prisoners on death row. Even though Pakistan’s capital punishment figures are astounding, every year some people avoid execution by appealing to the Diyat Ordinance. Diyat, blood money in English, is the financial compensation the culprit’s family pays to the heirs of the victim in order to gain their pardon. The Diyat Ordinance can be used only for cases of murder, manslaughter, and bodily harm. Pardoning, with or without blood money, is the only way out from the gallows.



The detractors of the law argue that it implies privatization of justice since the agreement is reached between two private parties, with the help of a private negotiator. To live or to die, according to Diyat no longer hinges on the norms of justice but rather on the persuasive powers of the culprit’s relatives and negotiators. Another reason why some people oppose the law is the fact that whether guilty or not, the offender gets acquitted and immediately freed in exchange for a certain amount of money. The critics also note that it exacerbates social discrimination, as poorer defendants might not be able to gather sufficient funds for the compensation. In most cases, the wealthy will escape the gallows while the poor won ́t.



The supporters of the law, argue that Pakistan is an Islamic Republic and therefore, it must follow the words of the Holy Koran as well as what is stated by Sharia. They note that despite the moral dilemmas raised by the law, its existence gives a second opportunity to prisoners and stops the cycle of revenge. They add that whether the victim’s family accepts the money or they waive it and pardon for the sake of God, a necessary process of forgiveness must take place.



This series was published in The Independent On Saturday in the UK.

For Love