Death penalty should end

By Zubeida Mustafa

LAST Thursday Pakistan reported its first execution in four years. Muhammad Hussain was hanged in Mianwali jail thus ending the tacit moratorium the government has observed since 2008 when Gen (retd) Musharraf’s rule ended.

The convict was a soldier of the Pakistan Army who was accused of killing his senior — a havaldar — with whom he was embroiled in a personal dispute. This came as a shock to human rights activists who have been campaigning against capital punishment. This execution took many aback because only a fortnight ago the president’s spokesman Farhatullah Babar had disclosed that the government was working on a bill to abolish capital punishment before the elections. The bill will convert the death penalty into life imprisonment.

In the last four years that Mr Asif Ali Zardari has been in office no prisoner had been executed in any jail in Pakistan until last week. Not that no death sentences were handed down — the death penalty continues to be recognised as a form of punishment in Pakistan’s judicial system. Nor were prisoners given clemency apart from a few.
But a tortuous procedure was adopted. An execution date for a prisoner on death row would be fixed, a clemency appeal made on his behalf and the president’s office would grant a stay order every three months, and thus prisoners — over 8,000 of them — escaped the noose.

It did mean that a prisoner had a sword perpetually hanging over his head. Zulfiqar Ali, a death-row prisoner in Kot Lakhpat, maintains a record. He has had 16 execution dates and 17 stay orders issued since 2008 when his review petition was turned down.

In 2007, the UN General Assembly had recommended that governments that had not abolished capital punishment should announce a moratorium on executions.

Seen against this backdrop, the hanging of Muhammad Hussain last week comes as a regressive step. The Punjab chief of prisons explained that this conviction was a military matter and the president did not intervene in such cases that fell under the army’s jurisdiction. But it was also stated that clemency had been turned down by the president as well as the chief of army staff.

If the appeal went to the president, it means he had a say in the matter. Why was the execution carried out in a civilian prison if it was a military issue? Apparently this was intended to demonstrate to the world who actually exercises power in Pakistan when the government and the military are at cross purposes.

It is time the government acted speedily on the issue of capital punishment that has been hanging fire for long. Last year Barrister Zafarullah had petitioned the Supreme Court to abolish the death sentence, given the corruption that is rife in the judicial system. The chances of innocent people being declared guilty and sentenced to death wrongly are very high.

The process of law requires that any person tried for a crime should have the right to full legal defence. Unfortunately, this is not the case in Pakistan. It has been clearly established again and again that police investigations are often flawed, and lawyers appointed by the state do not always perform their duties responsibly resulting in the miscarriage of justice.

Take Zulfiqar Ali’s case. According to him he was not provided competent and honest lawyers. The counsel appointed by the courts to argue his appeals didn’t meet him at all. As a result his request for a review was taken up by Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry who converted it into a review petition suo motu in 2006. But before any action could be taken the chief justice was out and Zulfiqar Ali’s petition was heard by the PCO judges.

The lawyer who was supposed to represent him never showed up at the review hearing in 2008. Such is the state of our judiciary that the judges reportedly caught hold of one of the lawyers present in court, who had no inkling of the case, and enlisted him as the defence counsel to fulfil a formality. Would that be considered a fair trial? And we do not know how many of those sentenced to death in Pakistan have suffered a similar fate.

All this comes at a time when the momentum towards abolition of the death penalty is growing. Protocol 2 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights stipulates that all parties will “take measures to abolish the death penalty within their jurisdiction”. Seventy-five states are parties to the protocol today.

The UN Assembly is also poised to adopt next month a resolution for the fourth time calling on member states to establish a moratorium on executions with a view to abolishing the death penalty.

The rationale as identified in the resolution is stated to be “that any miscarriage or failure of justice in the implementation of the death penalty is irreversible and irreparable” and that a moratorium “contributes to respect for human dignity and to the enhancement and progressive development of human rights”, and “there is no conclusive evidence of the deterrent value of the death penalty”. A large number of states have formally or informally observed a moratorium.

We may well ask, why should Pakistan be left behind?

Source: Dawn

20 thoughts on “Death penalty should end

  1. Government has already unofficaly baned death panalty because every one is free to kill every inocent person in Pakistan sp in Karachi .Look it is liecence from CM Sindh to kill 20 person/ day as he said few days back ,Killing of20 people is not big problem._

  2. it is immoral for the state to take a person's life as its prime duty is protection of the life of its citizens. the state cannot do something that it forbids others to do. the death penalty is revenge which for the state, which is the symbol of the highest norms of behaviour, is undignified. by killing a person one also kills the good in him or her. the state's duty is to reform a person. the death penalty robs the convict of that chance. the brutality involved in all methods of execution is reprihensible. we should abolish death penalty. moreover those on death row should not undergo the additional torture of keeping them in dark narrow dungeons. the dignity of the human being must be respected under all circumstances. the state must remain benign as the highest institution. we must all laud Zubeida Mustafa's humanitarian effort in this connection.
    mushir anwar

  3. 'I will NOT teach any one to rejoice anyone's death;be any one.They will learn to be non-vindictive,non-fanatical and will love all. I'm not saying that I defend the consequence he faced.I just feel that rejoicing,or feeling completion doesn't make sense. There's more to it. Man made mythology, man made idols, man made variable religions n places of worship & man made the rules in em. Do people believe God did so?

  4. I beg to disagree with you. In every culture and religion, there is a reward and punishment system. Of course, nobody would like to see the murderers, rapists, and arsonists go scot-free, and unless these perpetrators are awarded death sentence to set an example for others, the entire social fabric will crumble. I would go the extent of saying that killers and rapists are liable to be killed on the spot, rather than being dragged to our iniquitous Pakistani courts. Pakistan is a safe haven for terrorists and murderers only because they are not given condign punishments as a deterrent for others.


    1. Dear Sir the world has moved on since you employed your brain to the issue. Instead of employing logic to the issue you are rattling out fascist demagogy . The argument is about the system which is unreliable hence the victim may not have the fair day in a court.
      How in your "On the spot" killing will find the " murderers, rapists, and arsonists" to kill? On your say so or a police officers say so or what?
      Does "deterrent" mean to kill some one never mind the evidence or the judges verdict? It is best to leave such weighty matters to those who have the capacity to think?
      The demands of a civilised society are somewhat different than what you think.
      Have a good day.

  5. i am against death as a punishment-when i was in karachi jail a young
    man under death sentence came to me and asked me to write his 'mercy
    petition' which i did write-thanks to mr brohi i was released on bail
    after one month.
    when my mother noor us sabah begum died he came to recite the quran -i
    did not recognize him as all his hair had become white then he said
    'ap he ne to meri mercy petition likhi thhi'.

    sameen khan.

  6. I beg to disagree with you. In every culture and religion, there is a reward and punishment system. Of course, nobody would like to see the murderers, rapists, and arsonists go scot-free, and unless these perpetrators are awarded death sentence to set an example for others, the entire social fabric will crumble. I would go the extent of saying that killers and rapists are liable to be killed on the spot, rather than being dragged to our iniquitous Pakistani courts. Pakistan is a safe haven for terrorists and murderers only because they are not given condign punishments as a deterrent for others.

  7. Of course death penalty not should but MUST go. It MUST go not from Judiciary or Govt procedure but from public life also. Daily we hear the news of killing of innocent peoples, all over the world, by different ways like bomb and guns. Judiciary and Govt procedure give death penalty on the merit of crime but innocent people (male, female and kids) are being murdered or killed on daily basis and in good number.

    Ms Zubeida you must have used the word 'MUST END' and not 'should end'. Still you MUST have appealed to the killers on roads to end killings of innocent persons. Total elimination of DEATH PENALTY should be your next write up.

  8. Your opinion that "Death Penalty should end" is about Human Rights Activists and The UN General Assembly's recommendations only. Both these organisations are quiet about UN Resolution about Held Kashmir where Indian Forces have slaughtered nearly a million or more Muslims. What is going on in Gaza? UN has tacitly given a free hand to Israel to kill Muslim and Christian Palestinians on a daily basis. What about Myanmar where the Nobel Peace Prize Winner is not blinking an eyelid or uttering a word about Muslims being slaughtered in her country
    You madam are only concerned with human rights of criminals who have wantonly and deliberately murdered innocent people. What about the human rights of people they have killed and their families they have destroyed? How many Muslim countries are there who adhere to Islam and what the Quraan says. Are they also concerned with human rights of the murderers.

    Pakistan's constitution is supposed to be based on Quraan and Sunnah. How many so called intellectuals of this country read what Quraan says? And what Sunnah actually means? How many mullahs in their nefarious greed are committing murder in the guise of [what they call] their belief. What are the Taliban doing? Most of your front line political parties are supporting them just to get votes in the next elections. Our Army is not only fighting Taliban but their supporters among our politicians.

    These appeals for mercy are based on the plea that they are trying to persuade the victims heirs to forgive. You cannot browbeat or buy off the heirs if they do not want to forgive. They are entitled to revenge and therefore the President has no choice in the matter, he can only grant the killer another three months to stew in his own agony.
    You say there are 8000 people who are awaiting execution. Either it is typo or an extra zero is included for emphasis. Even if we accept 8000 then this includes innocent women incarcerated along with their children because their husbands do not want them any more. There must be also those who are wrongly and needlessly accused of blasphemy for some ulterior motive. And of course there must be unjustifiable killers. Why should the tax payer pay their up keep and protection. After all they did kill an innocent.

  9. I feel death penalty should not be scrapped from the legal texts.Evidence and trial must be flawless.

  10. We have two options. Either to hang those who are convicted for offences carrying death sentence or to grant them mercy by commuting their sentences to life imprisonment. But what is happening – keep pending – is not good for the prisoners and their families. However having said that I agree that death sentence must be abolished and disagrre with one commentator that other UN Resolutions are not being respected and therefore UN's moratorium should also not be respected. Remember two wrongs do not make a right.

    Rapists, murderers, terrorists etc can be punished with life imprisonment – say till natural death – to punish them for their deeds. Government will have to legislate suitably in this regard. Further our system of investigations and its seriousness must be given due importance for judiciary to help in due trial and decision. Our faulty investigations could land innocent people to gallows and prisons for life. But certainly death needs to be considered for abolition and improve upon our investigations and trial system and procedures with sincerity.

  11. Capital punishment is, of course, a maximum punishment in itself to be inflicted upon criminal. And it must be given to some genuine heinous crime that is punishment should fit the crime. In a society like ours where nobody is deterred to kill anyone as a mean to seek personal vengeance, abolishment of capital punishment is very questionable. I think anyone who has experienced the agony of his/her beloved being murdered cannot even think of the matter in question. In my opinion, abolishment of capital punishment is not going to pay us in return rather it will further strengthen the culprits.

  12. In continuation to my earlier comments………

    Please read Today's Times of India at page:….

    This news page carries two events which clearly gives the picture of CRIME RATE against females.

    In first part throat of a 15 years old girl was SLIT simply on getting NO for marriage proposal. At first place the girl is 15 and as per expert/doctors advice 15 is a under age for marriage. Second, the most important, for what serious crime the girl was given CAPITAL PUNISHMENT.

    In second story again in Afghanistan a female of 20 was beheaded by her family for refusing to be a PROSTITUTE.
    Now is REFUSAL TO BE A PROSTITUTE a crime? Why her own family members awarded Capital Punishment by beheading her.

    Once again I say the DEATH PENALTY should be banned but not only at legal or govt system but at Public and Domestic Life. Everyday we hear many people being killed by bombs for their no fault.

  13. The death penalty will go only after it has vanished from the inner thinking of the citizens. A humane society will automatically take steps to not have capital punishment.

    My question is this : *After one abolishes the death penalty , what replaces it ?*

    Is the alternative a * life term of imprisonment * ? In some places a life term is just 15 years !!!

    What about those potential cases when justice may have gone wrong ?

    Further , life term ? does it mean solitary confinement . One hopes not~~~its as bad as death.

    This debate is incomplete.

  14. my question is for all who are in favor not to give dealth penalty is that

  15. The judiciary system of Pakistan is not capable to award death sentance because there are many flaws. So without a free and fair judiciary system capital punishment is a question mark.
    My question to mr Kashif:-
    What you will do if your innocent loved one hang by this corrupt police/judiciary system
    Revenge by your enemies? those involved your loved one falsely and get him to the gallows?
    Yes absolutely everyone will think about revenge and this revenge will not stop ever

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