Initially, executions in Pakistan were carried out for terrorism related charges. However, in the wake of the Peshawar tragedy, the government of Pakistan decided to lift the moratorium on the10th. of March of this year and reinstated the heinous punishment for all death penalty offences. The PPP lead coalition government in 2008 placed a moratorium on executions following pressure on the government by the European Union and human rights’ groups.
On the 21st.of April, 17 inmates were executed in Pakistan, the highest number of executions in a single day since reversing of the country’s self-imposed ban on the death penalty in December after the Peshawar massacre that took more than 140 innocent lives. The prisoners were executed in different jails of the provinces of Punjab and Balochistan. 16 inmates were executed in various jails of Punjab including cities like Faislabad, Gujranwala, Gujrat, Lahore, Multan, Sialkot, and Rawalpindi, while one execution was carried out in the Maach jail of Quetta.
According to different news agencies, Iqbal and Latif were hanged for shooting four people including one woman. Three men, Muhammad Hussain, Nizamuddin and Azam were hanged in Central Jail Faisalabad. The first two were convicted for the murder of three people in 1998, while Azam was convicted for murdering seven people from one family in 2004. Three more people were hanged in Rawalpindi’s Adiala Jail for murder. Separately, in Lahore’s Kot Lakhpat Jail, two convicts were hanged for murder. Two men were hanged in Sialkot Jail for the gang-rape of a minor in 1999, while one person was hanged in Multan’s Central jail for committing murder in 2000. Another man was executed in Sahiwal’s Central Jail for murdering a man in 1998, while convict Azhar Mehmood was hanged in Gujrat District Jail for murder in 1995. A convict named Riaz Ahmed was also hanged for murder in Quetta’s Mach jail.
There are about 8,000 death row prisoners in Pakistan. Out of 8,000 death row prisoners, many of them are innocent and falsely implicated into criminal cases but still languishing in the violent and notorious jails of the country. This is all due to the failure and ineffective criminal justice system of Pakistan, where people with deep pockets easily manipulate prosecution evidence implicating innocent people. The investigations of the police before the commencement of a criminal trial fabricate the whole scene in order to mislead the courts and to save the people with power and money.
Supporters of the death penalty in Pakistan say that it is the only way available before the government to deal with the scourge of terrorism and militancy in the country. However, human rights organizations across the world and within Pakistan categorically oppose the reinstatement of the death penalty in the country. They have further contended that executing prisoners is no answer in dealing with terrorism in Pakistan. There is a need to revise the national and international policies in order to cater to terrorism and militancy cases.
My contention to executions is that the right to life is embodied as a natural right in Article 9 of the Constitution of Pakistan and in plain wording it can be said that no one can take that right to life of anyone, not even the courts that provide justice. Taking away the right to life by execution is unnatural and inconsistent with the principles of natural justice and in any civilized society, where execution is considered barbaric and inhumane. Since the lifting of the ban on the moratorium, the ratio of crime in Pakistan remains at the same level as before the lifting of the moratorium. More developed countries now have reached an argument that capital punishment is no answer to curtail crime.
My second contention is that the death penalty is irreversible. Once a prisoner is executed, it is all over. Pakistan is a country where a number of legal mistakes can occur and courts can also commit mistakes while conducting a criminal trial. The prevailing corruption in the society had also beleaguered the criminal justice system in the country whereof the chances of the innocent being declared guilty had increased exponentially.
My last and uttermost contention to the death penalty is that there is a need to develop non-penal social engineering in Pakistan. Instead of executing prisoners, all efforts should be made where society provides rehabilitation to prisoners, even to condemned prisoners, so that when are released from jail, they play a positive and responsible role in society. Keeping them in jails for years actually makes them more hardened criminals and puts them under immense mental torture.
More advanced countries, for instance, the UK, Germany, France, etc. are no longer party to the death penalty. These countries abolished the death penalty years ago and now don’t intend to reinstate it in their criminal justice system. Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, and China are amongst those countries that execute thousands of prisoners every year, which is astounding in this day and age. The non-penal social engineering doctrine in Pakistan would allow a system which exists in countries where the death penalty is not a part of the criminal justice system. It would make the system of punishment a bit more humane. Without a revision of the penal system, prisoners languish in violent and notorious jails, being denied basic human rights. The dignity of prisoners must not be overlooked.
In culmination, I submit that the government officials should now seriously look forward and consider their decision of lifting the ban on the moratorium of the death penalty. Executing condemned prisoners is no answer to combat terrorism. There is a need to revise national and international policies pertaining to foreign policy and internal security. The state of Pakistan now also has to realize that only secularism is a solution to extreme forms of militancy and terrorism. Pakistan’s action plan to combat terrorism seems plausible to the general public but it has no ingredient of bringing peace and harmony in Pakistan in the long run. It is a mere political slogan that the national action plan will bring peace and harmony.