IHRC-HK statement on recent spate of hangings in the country

While death penalties are being abolished world over Pakistani courts and quasi courts continues to dole out death sentences. During the month of December 2018 alone 29 people were awarded death sentences which were confirmed by the Chief of the Army Staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa. The military courts are notorious for pronouncing death sentence in a summary trial-without giving the accused chance of a fair trial.

The moratorium on death penalty, that was lifted following APS massacre has done little to deter terrorism or crime rate. The state in its frenzy began hanging the infirm, and mentally challenged. Unable to develop a cohesive and workable plan of action the half baked national Action plan soon unraveled to be a hastily drafted to appease the nation reeling from the bloodbath of 144 children.

The saying “One must not be too hasty in one’s rejoicing” can’t be truer for a situation arising recently when to the pleasant surprise of the proponents of reinstatement of moratorium on death penalty,  it was reported that Pakistan has voted in favor of moratorium at the UN General Assembly Plenary Session held in New York on 17th December 2018.

However, the good tidings were short lived as a senior Pakistani diplomat tweeted that Pakistan’s vote was mistakenly counted in favor of moratorium. He also stated that the United Nations had corrected Pakistan’s vote on the death penalty by including it among the votes cast against the resolution calling for a moratorium on executions.

The official backtracking dispelled all hopes that the criminal justice system is on its way to meaningful reforms

Mr. Muhammad Faisal a senior official at Foreign Office (FO) Pakistan, stated in his tweet “ in accordance with its consistent policy, voted against the General Assembly resolution calling for a moratorium on execution, with a view to abolishing the death penalty”

During the session 121 UN member states voted in favor of the resolution calling for a moratorium on capital punishment, whereas 35 countries including Pakistan, voted against the resolution and 32 abstained. This was the highest number of countries to date to have voted in favor of the moratorium resolutions since 2007. Currently 133 countries have abolished the death penalty in law or in practice

The fact that more countries than ever before have voted to end executions shows that global abolition of the death penalty is becoming an inevitable reality.

And yet the dream is far from becoming a reality for Pakistan’s 200 million population.

the lifting of the moratorium on the death penalty has led to the execution of more than 500 people, the vast majority of whom were not convicted of terror offences. Initially reserved for terror convicts, the death penalty was extended to all capital crimes, including kidnapping and murder, on 10 March 2015, at the behest of the military establishment.

The systemic failure of the state to dispense justice to the vulnerable is not unknown. There is no dearth of incidences where innocent have been sent to the gallows. No official apology has ever been rendered from the judiciary or the state for the travesty and miscarriage of justice. Neither any compensation is forthcoming for the legal heirs of the victim of judicial system of the country.

On the global front, every fourth person on death row in the world is stated to be a Pakistani citizen. Thus Pakistan accounts for 13 percent of all global executions since December 2014.According to unofficial figures Pakistan has sentenced 4500 people to death since 2004, which amounts to approximately one person per day. Since 2009, at least 19, 767 people have been sentenced to death globally.

In that time, Pakistan’s courts have sentenced 2, 705 people to death which accounts for 14 percent of death sentences worldwide. According to reports Pakistan sentences people to death 8 times more than the world average. Moreover the country has executed almost 2 inmates for every 11 people sentenced.

The Pakistan is perhaps the only country in the world doling out death sentence for crimes that do not cause murder. The Pakistan Penal Code contains 27 different offenses punishable by death, including blasphemy, rape,relationship outside of marriage, assault on the modesty of women, sedition, smuggling of drugs etc.

 

Pakistan government perhaps wants to makes a ghetto out of the country where the people are denied their basic rights of existence. The selective application of law whereby the deep pockets get away with murder while the poor are left to rot in jails going undetected and forgotten for decades. The judicial activism falls short when it comes to reforming itself. While thousands of inmates are serving time for crimes they have not committed or have served more times behind bars than was prescribed for the alleged crime. The judiciary turns a blind eye to its own short comings investing instead in matter of governance and policy frame work lying outside its constitutional purview.

Reformation of offenders is an unheard concept in the justice system infact this important function is completely amiss from judicial cycle. Crime deterrence through reformation has never been considered by the archaic judicial system of the country where centaury old barbaric penalties are imposed upon the populace without evaluating their effects on the crime rate. Pakistan’s is increasingly topping all the indices of human rights abuse in the world. The foreign office gaffe such as these will only add to the solitary state amongst the commune of nation that Pakistan currently finds itself in.

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