Jailed for life, Pakistani man excels in exams, wins prestigious chartered accountancy scholarship

TV crews poured into Pakistan’s Central Prison Karachi on Friday evening, not to cover a breakout or emergency at the high-security jail, but to report on Syed Naeem Shah, a convict who had 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 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 Pakistani rupee ($5,700) scholarship to complete his accounting studies.

The Institute of Chartered Accountants of Pakistan has offered a 1 million Pakistani rupee ($5,700) scholarship to Syed Naeem Shah to complete his accounting studies.

As reporters arrived in the prison, Shah was ready to answer their questions. He had only learned about the award a day earlier.

“Believe me, 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.”

Syed Naeem Shah comes out of his barrack at the Central Prison in Karachi on Jan. 14. (AN photo)

The high-security prison in the capital of Sindh province, once notorious for breeding criminals and housing militants, has for the past few years offered 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 prison wing, inspired the convict to invest his efforts into education.

“He motivated us and said ‘study, don’t waste your time,’” Shah said.  

Kazi Nazir Ahmed, inspector general of prison police in Sindh, said that Shah was a “talented individual” who “just needed a push in the right direction” to achieve his goals.  

“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.”

Syed Naeem Shah is studying at his barrack at the Central Prison in Karachi on Jan. 14. (AN photo) 

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 of my mother and wanted to see the happiness on the faces of my brothers.”

But they already knew, when on Friday evening, they gathered around the TV at their home in eastern Karachi’s Muzaffarabad Colony.

“Our family, including my two married sisters who have arrived with their children, have gathered to watch the 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 congratulatory messages began to pour in.

When Shah’s mother saw a post revealing the news, she burst into tears, Rehmat said. “She broke into tears due to happiness and excitement.”

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