The Final Moments Of Sarmad Khoosat's Powerful Performance Are Making Me Question The Death Penalty

By Rameeza Ahmad | 11 Oct, 2018

Sarmad Khoosat has exceeded all expectations with his 24-hour performance.


Sarmad Khoosat gave the performance of a lifetime in ‘No Time To Sleep’ and I don’t think there is a single person out there who is currently not in complete awe of the man.


When I first heard about his 24-performance depicting the last day in the life of a prisoner on death row, I was confused. How would he pull it off? Would he sleep on stage? Would he use the toilet while the crowd was there? I was eagerly waiting for the performance so I could have my questions answered.

The play was done in collaborating with Justice Project Pakistan on the  World Day Against The Death Penalty day. You can read about the details of what inspired the play here. 

And on the night of 9th October, 2o18 my questions were slowly answered.


Sarmad Khoosat had completely adopted the role. He was Prisoner Z and Prisoner Z was him.


My coworker who watched the 22nd hour of the performance in person told me that she totally believed that Sarmad Khoosat mindset of a prisoner on his last day in death row. The atmosphere was incredibly quiet and everything was pitch dark.

Only half a dozen people were allowed in at a time and my cowrker, Haadia, happened to be one of the last people to watch the performance live. She recounted how the entire thing made her feel incredibly depressed because she kept thinking about how Zulfiqar Ali Khan, who Prisoner Z was based on, did not have the comfort of knowing he would make it out of the situation alive.



The entire cast and crew were equally mesmerized with Khoosat’s performance, according to my coworker who saw the show live

And during the last hour of the performance, no one was allowed in except the cast and crew. And that’s understandable since Sarmad Khoosat is actually performing his ghusl and everything is as accurate as it can get.

Around 10 PM we saw that he is brought his black clothes and a bar of soap. The clothes are what he will be executed in and the bar of soap is for him to use to take his last bath.



In the last hour, we see Prisoner Z perform his final Ghusl as he says prayers.

And once he is done, he stands and is constantly reciting prayers under his breath and seems to be in a daze. When the police come to take him to his execution he does not hear them and they enter his cell, and dress him themselves since he is incapable of doing anything but praying fervently under his breath.


This scene was too much for me…

Seeing this man praying as hard as he can, not being able to move because he knows when he leaves this prison cell, he will be on his way to his death. Having guards have to physically drag him out of his cell while he is almost incapable of even walking.


And when he is finally dragged out of his cell, there is a female voice who says ‘Master Jee‘ and Prisoner Z looks up and this is where the play ends. And in the end, there is text telling us that this was based on actual events that happened to prisoner Zulfiqar Ali Khan, and his stay order came at the last moment. He lived to see another month, and was released back to the prison’s general population where he went back to teaching his fellow inmates.


The plot twist at the end shocked many but they’ve stayed very close to the true story

Prisoner Z’s execution took place a month later, and he told one of his guards to let his lawyers know that he had lived a lifetime in that month.

Then the screen went completely black. And I was left wondering and grappling with my feelings. Sarmad Khoosat had done what I thought was not possible; make me empathize with those that society has written off, those on death row. I always imagined death row prisoners to be people who had no remorse and deserved to die.

But after watching this performance and learning about Zulfiqar Ali Khan, who killed two men in self-defense and was still sentenced to death, I realized that all those condemned to death were not exactly guilty but just people who could never get fair trials and good legal representation.



Prisons were made to rehabilitate citizens and to integrate them back to society as contributing members. But is our prison system doing that?

This question has been haunting me still last night. When a prisoner such as Zulfiqar Ali Khan who is clearly remorseful and even a positive influence in prison where he is teaching his fellow inmates as well as getting dozens of degrees; a model prisoner cannot get redemption from the criminal justice system then who can?


Are those in prisons just meant to rot there and spend their life behind bars? Do they have no chance to be rehabilitated and let out?


Clearly, there is a need for major reform within the criminal justice system.

And for a start, a moratorium on the death penalty definitely needs to be reintroduced. Justice Project Pakistan who was a partner for this performance has been fighting for this day and night for the last many years and now I completely support them as well.

After the play, a video of Sarmad reciting ‘The Ballad of Reading Gaol’ by Oscar Wilde was uploaded. It’s not only a powerful poignant statement, I am in awe of how he was able to perform this when he had just given a draining 24-hour performance.

The Ballad of Reading Gaol – Sarmad Khoosat

Sarmad Khoosat does a dramatic reading of 'The Ballad of Reading Gaol (Jail)' by Oscar Wilde.The livestream for 'No Time To Sleep' is available at . Sarmad Khoosat has played the role of a death row prisoner in solitary confinement on his last day.#NoTimeToSleep Justice Project Pakistan Olomopolo Media Highlight Arts Sarmad Khoosat Official

Gepostet von Justice Project Pakistan am Mittwoch, 10. Oktober 2018



What do you think about the death penalty? And if you want to watch the complete 24 hour performance, you can check it out here.


Sarmad Khoosat Is Living The Last 24 Hours Of A Death Row Prisoner’s Life And It Is Pretty Intense




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