Mianwali Aspiration and Reality
to have far-reaching and irreversible consequences.
In Punjab, for instance, the death penalty accounts for 83% of the executions and 89% of the death sentences in the country. Seven times as many prisoners have been sentenced to death in Punjab than in Sindh. Notwithstanding the high execution rates, the number of murders and the incidents of terror crimes have not declined in Punjab. Despite having executed only 18 prisoners in comparison to Punjab’s 382 executions, Sindh has had the greatest decline in murders (40% decline in 2014-2015 in comparison to Punjab’s 25%) in Pakistan.
The rate of decline in murders in Punjab has also been slower than the decline in the rest of Pakistan, overall. These figures suggest that there is no correlation between the use of the death penalty and a decrease in the crimes it seeks to deter. According to the Justice Project of Pakistan’s findings, 25 of the 27 jails in Punjab are holding prisoners beyond their maximum capacity. As the number of prisoners held beyond capacity increases, the number of prisoners executed in the jail also increases ( correlation=0.73). For every 70 prisoners added to an overpopulated jail, 1 prisoner is executed. This horrific statistic suggests that prison administration agencies are responding to issues of overpopulation and crowding by increasing executions. The solution to overpopulation, however, is to find ways to have more expeditious trials to create space in prisons. It is not to hand out death sentences.
There are also concerns that up to 1,000 people that were convicted as juveniles are facing execution in Pakistan. This is illegal under international law. However, proving accurate ages in Pakistan can be particularly difficult, especially in poor communities as many births are not registered. Thus, in June last year, Aftab Bahadur was put to death even though evidence proved that he was a minor when he was convicted of murder in 1992. On 4 August 2017, Shafqat Hussain was also executed, despite appeals that he was a minor when convicted. He was found guilty of killing and kidnapping a seven-year-old boy in 2004. His lawyers also maintained that he was underage when the boy was killed. Hussain was allegedly tortured for nine days before he gave a confession which he later withdrew. His execution was postponed four times before he was hanged.
These statistics illustrate that the imposition of the death penalty in Pakistan has not led to a decline in either terror-related or other crimes. Instead, it appears to have been reinstituted in haste, in what was an emotional time for Pakistan. Decisionmakers cannot be emotionally charged when seeking to implement effective ways to deter serious acts of terror and crime. Such decisions must be based on clear empirical evidence, on sound and objective benchmarks and after considering international best practices. The world is moving away from use of the death penalty, therefore, it is surprising that Pakistan has re-implemented it. The numbers given here are also clear. They do not show that the death penalty is serving as an effective deterrent to either terror related or other crimes. Instead, it appears that it is being used far too frequently and flippantly. It is perhaps time again for the government of Pakistan to re-evaluate its policy about capital punishment through a fact-based study before too many irreversible sentences are handed out.