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.

Southasia - - MALÉ - By Aam­i­nah Qadir

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

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