Islamabad Death Penalty Questions
The death penalty has been restored in Pakistan but the action does not seem to be acting as a deterrent against terrorism and serious crimes.
Some 494 people have been executed ted in Pakistan since December 2014, an average of 3.5 persons per week and there are still 8200 prisoners on death h row. This gives Pakistan the fifth highest execution rates in the world—following orld—following China, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Iraq. These countries have ve abysmal track records about the protection of human rights.
The death penalty was reinstituted in Pakistan in December 2014 after a deadly terrorist attack killed 142 children in a school in Peshawar. Amidst public outrage, the then Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif announced that the moratorium on the death penalty was to be lifted for convicts involved in crimes of terror. Soon after, he also decided to resume executions for all other death penalty related offences. No specific reason was provided for the lifting of the death penalty in relation to non-terrorism related crimes. Further, the government did not provide any rationale or empirical evidence that supports the efficacy of the death penalty in the reduction of terror or other crimes. In an attempt to provide greater safeguards for human rights, the death penalty is now being discontinued in many countries worldwide. Pakistan’s decision to reinstate the death penalty was thus widely condemned by the United Nations and human rights campaigners who warned that it would do little to impede terrorist attacks. Their caution has proved correct.
There appears to be no correlation between the number of terrorist attacks and the number of death sentences passed by ATCs. From August 2016 to February 2017, when there were virtually no executions, there were no major terror attacks (with 5 or more deaths) in Punjab. There were 6 major attacks in Balochistan, 5 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and 1 in Sindh. As the aim of the reinstitution of the death penalty was to tackle and reduce terrorist attacks, one would expect that the highest use of the penalty would be in courts that decide anti-terrorism cases—that is Anti-terrorism Courts (ATCs) and military courts. Statistics, however, reveal that ATCs only account for 18% of all executions in Pakistan. Military courts account for 17% and criminal courts account for the remaining 65% of the executions. 226 prisoners are on the death row for "non-lethal offences" in Punjab alone. It is clear that the death penalty is currently being utilized most frequently in criminal cases and for a wide range of offences that have no link with terrorism.
Since the lifting of the moratorium, over 76 executions have been carried out for suspects charged under the Anti-terrorism Act (ATA). The ATA provides the death penalty for a broad range of offences including kidnapping for ransom, murder and hijacking. According to Terror on Death Row, out of the 800+ prisoners on death row in Pakistan who were tried as “terrorists.” as many as 88% had no link to any crime that can reasonably defined as “terrorism”. In response to the harsh implications of the ATA, in August 2017, Justice Dost Muhammad Khan, a judge of the Supreme Court of Pakistan, criticised the broad application of the ATA in ordinary crimes. In his judgement, he noted that the ATA was a “harsh law” and should not be extended liberally to include murder or attempted murder for reasons that have no connection with terrorism of militancy. Despite recognition of the flaws in the ATA from Pakistan’s apex court, the death penalty continues