Page last updated at 23:10 GMT, Saturday, 18 November 2006

Adjusting will be hard for death row man

By Mark Simpson
BBC North of England correspondent

Mirza Tahir Hussain
Mirza Tahir Hussain is to live with his brother's family in Leeds

Life in the suburbs of north Leeds will not be easy for Mirza Tahir Hussain.

The satellite dish on the wall outside his family's home is a symbol of the changing world which passed him by during the past two decades.

He is returning to a city where things we take for granted - like internet cafes and take-away cappuccinos - will seem completely alien.

When he left Britain in the winter of 1988, Margaret Thatcher was prime minister and the pop world was ruled by Wet Wet Wet and Phil Collins.

His family situation is now very different. He has four new nephews, a brother-in-law he has never met and, sadly, only one parent.

His father died four years ago. His mother, Manawar Bibi Hussain, is elderly and relatively frail.

Mirza Tahir Hussain's grey hair and beard make him look closer to 66 than 36 years of age

She managed to visit him twice while he was in jail in Pakistan but has found the past 18 years almost unbearable.

Little wonder that she said she would refuse to believe he is really home, until she sees him face to face.

Her other son, Amjad, 38, spearheaded the campaign for his release. He may not look like it now, but he is two years older than his brother.

Hussain's grey hair and beard make him look closer to 66 than 36 years of age.

Once he is back in Leeds, the plan is for him to live with Amjad and his wife, Farhad, and their four sons.

Farhad said: "It will complete our family."

Political pressure

It is a family which has made huge sacrifices, not least the fact that Amjad gave up his job last year to work full time trying to save his brother from the gallows.

He had a two-pronged strategy - politics and media - and used both to try to keep up pressure on Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf.

He appeared so often on the BBC Leeds news programme pleading for help that the studio sofa was renamed the "Amjad sofa" by one of the presenters.

One night he cried on it, as it looked as if all hope of thwarting his brother's execution had gone.

Then Prince Charles stepped in. Many people believe that his personal intervention, during a visit to Pakistan last month, proved to be the difference between life and death for the 36-year-old man from Leeds.

Re-adjusting slowly

Hussain was convicted in 1989 of murdering a taxi driver, but maintained the killing was in self-defence.

Bizarrely, he himself only found out that his death sentence had been overturned when he was told by his fellow prisoners in jail in Rawalpindi.

The news hit the media before he was officially told, and fortunately one of his fellow inmates had a radio.

Back now in Britain, Hussain is doing his best to avoid the media as he slowly re-adjusts to life in the West.


He has been behind bars his entire adult life. When he went on his ill-fated visit to Pakistan on December 16, 1988 to see his 100-year-old grandmother, he was a part-time student and was also serving in the Territorial Army.

His family say it is too early to think of future career options.

After all, this time last week they thought his future would be death by hanging on New Year's Eve, the planned date for his execution.

No matter how difficult life is going to be for him settling back in north Leeds, he knows it is much better than life in that seven-man cell in Rawalpindi.

Rather than counting down the days to his death, he is now counting his blessings.

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