ISLAMABAD: The National Action Plan (NAP) is not being implemented according to the spirit of the 21st Amendment, while people are being hanged in haste and without proper trials.
These were the observations of participants at a consultative meeting organised by the Human Right Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) at a local hotel here on Saturday to mark the World Day against the Death Penalty. They argued that violence had never eliminated crime from any society across the world.
The HRCP members called for abolition of death penalty in a progressive way and immediate an blanket moratorium on capital punishment.
Read: Army chief confirms death sentences for 6 terrorists involved in Peshawar school attack
Pakistan has hanged 246 people since a moratorium on the death penalty was lifted in December 2014. The move was immediately preceded by the APS Peshawar massacre.
HRCP Secretary-General IA Rehman said that the rights commission wanted people to ponder over why anyone needed to be hanged, and what the criteria is for it.
“We are hanging people every now and then without truly evaluating the repercussions,” he added.
Senator Farhatullah Babar said there seemed be an undue sense of urgency around sending people to the gallows.
“Recently, it has been noted that death penalties were announced via tweets, which is extremely callous. There was no mention of who those people were, who the judges were, what the defence said, or where the execution took place,” he said.
Senator Babar said that this was really worrying and addressing this issue was a matter of urgency.
He suggested that a representative of the HRCP should be allowed to sit and take notes during death-penalty trials, even if the proceedings of the trials are not supposed to be made public.
The senator urged civil society to raise its voice for the approval of the right to information law, which was finalised by the Senate and was sent to the Cabinet Division. He said that the Cabinet Division failed to move the bill as the Ministry of Defence has still not issued an NOC.
He said civil society and parliament should emphasise reformative justice instead of retributive justice.
Babar said that six per cent of people sent to the gallows were sentenced by the military, and that these execution were very worrying and against the spirit of the 21st Amendment.
The senator said that 130 countries have already abolished the death penalty.
Babar said that Islam only allows for the death penalty in two cases — murder with intent, and for spreading “mischief on earth”.
In Pakistan, the senator pointed out that the death penalty could be handed down for 27 separate offenses, adding that the number should be reduced.
“The death penalty cannot eliminate crime from a society. Saudi Arabia is a prime example of this,” said Senator Afrasiab Khattak.
He further said that Pakistan had long been living in a state of denial when it comes to terrorism. “It is for this reason that we did not set up high security prisons and anti-terrorism policies. If we had those, we could deal with criminals without hanging them,” he said.
Human rights activist Zafarullah Khan quoted the example of Dr Zulfiqar who completed his intermediate, bachelors, masters and Phd degrees during the 27 years he spent behind bars, while also acting as a teacher for other inmates seeking an education. He said Dr Zulfiqar was hanged after spending almost his entire life in prison.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 11th, 2015.