KARACHI: When TV crews poured into Central Prison Karachi on Friday evening, they did not arrive to cover a breakout or any other emergency at the high-security Pakistani jail. The spotlight was on one man, Syed Naeem Shah, a life convict who has just earned a prestigious chartered accountancy scholarship.
Shah has been serving a 25-year sentence at the Karachi jail after he was convicted of murder in 2011. He made headlines when he completed his preliminary education behind the bars and last month passed intermediate exams with distinction, having scored 954 marks out of 1,100.
The achievement was followed by recognition from the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Pakistan, the premier auditing body in the country, which offered him a 1-million-rupee ($5,700) scholarship to complete accounting studies.
As reporters arrived in the prison, Shah was wearing a white shirt, ready to answer their questions. He only learnt about the award a day earlier.
“Believe me, that that was the happiest moment of my life, during my 11 years inside the jail,” the 32-year-old told Arab News. “I could not sleep all night.”
The high-security prison in the capital of Sindh province, once notorious for breeding criminals and housing militants, has for the past few years been offering various classes as part of its rehabilitation program, preparing inmates for improved lives after release.
It was the jail superintendent, Hasan Sehto, who during one visit to Shah’s barrack inspired him to invest his efforts in getting an education.
“He motivated us and said ‘study, don’t waste your time,’” Shah said.
Kazi Nazir Ahmed, inspector general of prisons’ police in Sindh, said Shah was a talented individual who just needed the right direction to achieve his goals.
“Naeem Shah’s case proves that those who end up in jail, for any reason, can return to society as a useful person,” he told Arab News.
“He has the ability to become a good chartered accountant and spend his time outside jail and pursue a very bright future.”
Shah could not wait for the news to reach his family.
“I cannot tell you how happy they will be,” he said. “I wanted to see the happiness on the face my mother, wanted to see the happiness on the faces of my brothers.”
But they already knew as on Friday evening they were all watching him on TV at their home in Muzaffarabad Colony in eastern Karachi.
“Our family, including my two married sisters who have arrived with their children, have gathered to watch headlines so we may see Naeem expressing his happiness,” Rehmat Shah, Shah’s elder brother, told Arab News.
The news reached them a day earlier, through social media, as congratulations started to pour in.
When she saw a post with Shah’s photo, his mother burst in tears, the brother said: “She broke into tears due to happiness and excitement.”